A professional image of Mark Rieth (B.A. General Business ’89), owner of Atwater Brewery onsite

Mark Rieth (B.A. General Business ’89), owner of Atwater Brewery

News continues to circulate about companies and individuals stepping up to aid those fighting on the front lines of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Many leading this charge are MSU alumni who are acting in the “Spartans Will” spirit by standing together and being resourceful to overcome this challenge.

Mark Rieth (B.A. General Business ’89), owner of Detroit-based Atwater Brewery, has taken his business operations from spirits to hand sanitizer to aid critical areas across the country.

“Within 48 hours after hearing the president’s emergency declaration, we found a way to start producing and sourcing gallons and four-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer,” Rieth said. “We heard the demand for hospitals, police and fire department first responders and really wanted to jump on it.”

Rieth explained that when the state of emergency was declared on March 13, the FDA released a set of guidelines to assist distilleries in shifting production, sharing a specific sanitizer formula and information for proper bottle labeling. This helped ease Atwater’s transition, bypassing the standard requirement for FDA approval to distribute the supplies.

“We’ve been able to convert our production plant to a semi-automated filling system and to hold some of our employees to work these lines,” Rieth said.

The sanitizer being produced by Atwater is primarily aiding the City of Detroit, which has become one of Michigan’s hot spots for the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, given the ubiquity of the outbreak, Rieth also has stepped up to aid those in need beyond the local area.

“We’ve been helping all across Michigan and across the country,” Rieth said. “We’ve sent some to California and some to Atlanta; we’re aiding any critical areas that desperately need it.”

An Atwater employee filling hand sanitizer gallons.

An Atwater employee filling gallons of hand sanitizer

In addition to donating gallons of hand sanitizer to hospitals and first responders, Rieth says smaller bottles of hand sanitizer are being sold to the public, alongside Atwater’s standard packaged beer and spirits.

“Our downtown location is open for beer to go and hand sanitizer,” Rieth said. “We’re still supplying [beer and spirits] to Meijer, Kroger and liquor stores — our distributors are picking up daily.”

In addition to pivoting Atwater’s operations, Rieth found a way to pivot when faced with making temporary layoffs from the closure of his taphouses. He partnered with Meijer, a fellow Michigan company and Atwater’s largest customer, to host a two-day job fair at his downtown location.

“Meijer was being inundated with people coming to their stores and needing to hire more workers, while other restaurants and companies like us were having to lay off [employees],” Rieth said. “Meijer was able to hire a couple hundred people over a two-day span as a temporary measure until we’re back up and running.”

As many of us are in the same position, overcoming new and evolving challenges, Rieth highlighted that this is what makes us Spartans. “I think that we define ourselves in difficult times,” he said. “As Spartans, we rise up to the challenge. That’s definitely what we’re doing here [at Atwater], and we’re excited to continue to help out.”