Shifting Gears

Businesses are shifting into production amongst the chaos

Courtesy Gaslight Theater

Local businesses in Southern Arizona are pitching in and switching production to help the healthcare industry as well as the public amid shortages of food, medical supplies and lodging during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gaslight Costume Shoppe's head designer, Renee Cloutier has been busy making face masks for the community after asking her daughter, who is a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital, about how prepared the hospital was as the pandemic started to spread.

"My daughter told me the hospital might be short on masks," Cloutier said. "So I asked if it would help if I made some fabric (masks). She told me, "That would be great in case something happens."

So the seamstress got to work making masks for her daughter and several other family members who are also in the healthcare industry. Weeks since, demand for Cloutier's masks have skyrocketed — she's making hundreds a week. She said her masks help extend the life of the N-95 respirator masks that are in short supply at hospitals.

"The kind (of masks) I'm making will fit over the N-95 masks," Cloutier said. "They'll still fit a regular person but I figure some of the medical people may need to cover their N-95 masks if they were only given one."

The masks are 100 percent cotton and are free to the public. To find out more or to be put on Cloutier's list for a mask, please contact Renee at the Gaslight Costume Shoppe at 520-686-1046.

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery has teamed up with Elgin Distillery to convert their spirits into hand sanitizer for the local medical community at large. The federal government reached out to distillers for help after recently easing restrictions to produce hand sanitizer. They even gave distillers their FDA hand sanitizer recipe and guidelines on how to make it.

"Basically, you can't find hand sanitizer anymore. Even hospitals can't find it," said Steve Tracy, owner of Thunder Canyon Brewstillery. "So we've been turning our high-proof rum into hand sanitizer."

Thunder Canyon uses their 500 gallon fermentation tanks — typically used for beer production — to ferment sugar and yeast into wash alcohol to be distilled. They send the wash alcohol down to Elgin to be processed in their 500-gallon distillation still. Elgin Distillery can produce about 50 gallons of hand sanitizer from each 500-gallon run, according to Tracy.

"We only have a 50 gallon still that will make about 5 gallons of hand sanitizer," Tracy said. "To ramp up production we're now sending our wash (alcohol) to Elgin where they'll run it through their still and make about 50 gallons per run."

Alcohol needs to be 80 percent (160 proof) to be used as hand sanitizer, according to the World Health Organization. The alcohol they make comes off the still at 90 percent or 180 proof — far stronger than needed, according to Tracy.

"The demand is so far in excess we're cranking it out as fast as we can," Tracy said.

The Hotel McCoy is offering rate assistance grants for artists, hospitality and non-profit employees struggling with lodging during the pandemic. Grants are awarded in the amount of 10 to 40 percent off the already reduced monthly rate on a furnished room, all utilities, wi-fi, cable, and daily hot breakfast included, according to Nicole Dahl, general manager of Hotel McCoy. Monthly rent can range from $750 to $895 a month. Their grant program could reduce rent to as low as $450 per month.

Dahl said she felt the need to offer help after having a conversation with a friend who rents a room in someone's home without a lease. Her friend's roommate decided she no longer wanted to rent to Dahl's friend since she was unable to quarantine due to work.

"She said, "I'm just renting a room. I don't have a lease or anything and now I have to be out by the 10th," Dahl said. "I'm sure there's plenty of people in Tucson who are in this situation and they can't afford to put down a big deposit on a place and buy furniture."

To apply, please contact Nicole Dahl at Grant applications can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to process, according to Dahl.

Local restaurant produce distributor Pivot Produce lives up to its name by redesigning its business model to provide home produce delivery subscriptions to the public under the name Pivot Direct.

Hotel Congress is retooling to help serve the community by offering grocery goods typically out of stock these days — eggs, bread, toilet paper, produce and many other essential items. Customers order from the hotel's website,, and orders are fulfilled twice a week - Orders made by 1 P.M. on Sundays and Wednesdays will be ready for pickup on Tuesday and Friday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

"We noticed there were many items in our inventory that we could make available to others for purchase," said Hotel Congress Marketing Director Delice Shepard. "We're just trying to offer items that are difficult to find right now. Especially in the downtown area."

The Hotel Congress Market has teamed up with their food distributors Sysco Wholesale and Meritt Foods of Arizona to procure the essentials they sell. While Congress' prices aren't cheap they're hoping to be able to make price adjustments due increased demand, which will increase their purchasing power.

"We'll be making some price adjustments here soon because the demand is growing which makes it possible for us to buy in larger quantities," said Shepard.

The hotel market is also planning on expanding its service by adding an extra fulfillment day as well as offering delivery within the downtown area, according to Shepard.

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