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Keeping Spirits Going: Our 48-Hour Business Model Transformation


Keeping Spirits Going: Our 48-Hour Business Model Transformation


Written by Thomas Adams 
September 27, 2013

Looking around Rochester these days, things look a little different. Life as we knew it has changed drastically. As we all find ourselves in the process of finding our “new normal,” Black Button is no different. We have been moving towards our own “new normal.” What started as a shutdown of Black Button has transformed into a production of over 70,000 bottles of hand sanitizer a week.

Rewinding back to mid-March, there was a point when a complete business transformation seemed unimaginable. Faced with a potentially long-term shutdown, we rallied as a team and worked to provide a much-needed product to the Rochester community and front-line workers: hand sanitizer. 

“On March 15th, a date which will live in infamy at this point, I remember Jason being on the phone from mid-morning (11 a.m.), and everything was operating pretty normally with a few restrictions … Four hours later [we were] closing the plant. And three hours from then [Jason said], ‘We’re making hand sanitizer.’ I was like, ‘What just happened?’”

— Stephanie Barrett, human resources manager


1. People First Mentality 

Realizing the community need for hand sanitizer, and that Black Button is uniquely qualified to make it, we conceptualized the process and delivered our first order in three days. It went directly in the hands of healthcare workers, first-responders and other essential business employees. We offered the hand sanitizer at cost, and the good will generated sparked a community interest in supporting us. This was never about making a profit. This was about keeping the community safe and keeping Black Button employees working.

2. Community Support

Black Button could not have done this without community support. From the work of the government, to the Visitors Bureau, to our friends in the business, this was a collaborative effort.

  • Legislation was passed at lightning speed to make this happen. Eliminating excise tax on hand sanitizer and allowing us to offer curbside pickup and delivery of alcohol made it possible for Black Button to survive.
  • The Visitor’s Bureau public relations outreach got the Black Button name out there, and we have been able to help so many people because of that.
  • Thanks to the Genesee Brewing Company, we have the amount of sterile water required for the FDA’s recipe.

“I’m going to owe a lot of people some pretty big drinks or barrels of bourbon after this is all said and done, because I think I called in just about every favor I’ve accumulated over the last seven years to do this. Everyone’s been very happy to help, and we’ve had a great outpouring of support from the community, other businesses offering to help.”

— Jason Barrett, CEO and president

3.     Developing Systems

Pulling together the new Black Button curbside and delivery processes would not be possible without a well-designed system. We had to completely redo our website and distribution structure. Black Button developed a robust system to process orders quickly and somewhat efficiently. We’re fulfilling anywhere from 200 to 300 orders a day of curbside delivery for both hand sanitizer and liquor. Our system has become a well-oiled machine. 

4.     Passionate and Skilled Team

 Things turned around for us pretty quickly. Within 48 hours, Black Button had entirely new systems and processes in place. There was no time for lengthy approval processes, we did it quick and we did it right. We followed the FDA guidelines precisely and we let our employees do what they do best. It has truly been incredible to witness. 


Black Button’s hope is that some of these revised regulations become the new normal. They have allowed us to look at our business model differently and more creatively. This new business model has allowed Black Button and our community to rally together and make business happen, when initially the prospect looked bleak. It has allowed Black Button to remember what is important: our customers and their needs during times of uncertainty. It has kept spirits going.

Did you hear?

Black Button is growing, again.

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