NOLA Businesses Are Leading the Way Through COVID: Roulaison Distilling Co.

Patrick Hernandez

Patrick Hernandez is the Co-founder of Roulaison Distilling Co. Originally from Berwick, LA, Patrick left the state to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he met his now business partner, Andrew Lohfeld. After spending the first years of his career working in finance in New York City, Patrick moved back to Louisiana to launch Roulaison, a rum-focused distillery in the heart of New Orleans.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your businesses?

Our entire landscape has completely changed since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to evolve.  Early on, we made the decision to switch to hand sanitizer production as quickly as we could which certainly brought new challenges to our business.  Thankfully we were well-stocked on our rum lineup going into the initial shutdown which allowed us to continue selling those for curbside pickup while focusing our day-to-day efforts on sanitizer to meet the incredible need in the community.   Now, we’ve flipped back to focusing more on rum while maintaining a supply of hand sanitizer.

With bars and restaurants suffering such a tremendous blow, we must be much more reliant on the liquor and grocery stores who carry us as well as our amazing customers who keep returning to our distillery for curbside bottle pickups.  We expect the business environment to be challenging for the foreseeable future, but we are just continuously trying to adapt and keep everyone both safe and tipsy.

What changes have your businesses had to make to adapt to quarantine?
We have been strictly pickup-only since the beginning of quarantine, but that does not mean we cannot find ways to create a sense of community and togetherness. To do so, we are now offering a monthly box subscription. Through it, we can highlight some great ways to use our spirits, showcase other craft non-alcoholic producers both locally and nationally, and create common experiences across our customers which we share on social media. The response in the first couple of months has been tremendous, and we love seeing the similar yet unique ways our customers use the ingredients. We always provide a recipe, but everyone can garnish differently or get creative with the way they use the ingredients, especially as they get to their second or third cocktail.

Were there any resources or advice you gave your employees to help them during this time?
Sanitize constantly and mask up.  We’re still a small company with only my business partner and me, so we are extremely cautious about staying healthy. 

What advice would you give to other business owners specifically in New Orleans about how to restart business when quarantine is over?
The people of New Orleans want to support you, so give them ways to do so. The only thing we know for sure is that the way we all do business is going to look different as we come out of quarantine. Customers will likely behave differently, but that doesn’t diminish the incredible support for local businesses that New Orleanians want to provide. Keep an open mind, and call us if you need any sanitizer!

Though this is a tough time, what has inspired optimism for you and your businesses moving forward?
Seemingly, one of the first reactions to the pandemic for many businesses has been “how can we support each other?”  From our collaboration with Amber House on a hand sanitizer product to curating our monthly boxes, it has provided us an opportunity to step outside of our normal routine, collaborate more, and form new friendships.  We’ve tried to introduce our audience to other local businesses, and we really appreciate everyone who has done the same for us (looking at y’all, Online Optimism!).

Photo credit: Krisliz Photography

As Louisiana is in phase 2 of reopening, we decided to talk to some local business leaders within New Orleans about how they believe quarantine has gone and what they have learned.

Working through COVID has been difficult and posed a new set of challenges. We’ve all had to adapt in one way or another whether that’s in our professional lives or personal lives. It’s been particularly difficult for small businesses learning to navigate through PPP loans, trying to maintain staff and being uncertain of when businesses can fully reopen. New Orleans once again shows its resilience during this tough time and has continued to band together to begin what is hopefully a safe re-entry into normalcy.

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