Award-winning craft beer. Five artisan restaurants. Specialty coffee. Hand-crafted spirits. Brothers Jason and Jim Ebel have seen their company, Two Brothers, evolve from a brewery to a thriving lifestyle brand. Growing up in Wheaton in the early 80s, the brothers could never have imagined the turn their future business would temporarily take during an unforeseen pandemic.
When Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order in March to slow the spread of COVID-19, the company closed most of its operations and furloughed staff.
Shortly after the lockdown, while a skeletal crew continued to roast beans at its Warrenville location, an official from The Department of Homeland Security walked in with an unexpected proposal. The federal government, facing a global hand sanitizer shortage, was reaching out to distilleries –key producers of ethanol, a central sanitizer ingredient.
The company didn’t hesitate to take action.
"It’s our patriotic duty.” Jason Ebel, Two Brothers
According to Jason, ensuring employees continued to collect a paycheck was worth the high up-front cost of a new business. “Plus,” he added “it’s our patriotic duty.”
In an attempt to ease Two Brothers’financial burden and avert layoffs, workNet DuPage disbursed 1E Cares Act funding, which enabled the company to purchase hydrogen peroxide, packaging, and other necessary items.
“The grant reimbursement was hugely helpful. It allowed us to employ extra workers knowing we could cover the labor expense. This made us more productive and allowed us to keep up with demand,” says Jason. As a result, the company saved dozens of jobs.
“The grant reimbursement was hugely helpful. It allowed us to employ extra workers knowing we could cover the labor expense. This made us more productive and allowed us to keep up with demand.” Jason Ebel, Two Brothers
Employees across Two Brothers’ multiple lines returned to work in their new roles as sanitizer manufacturers.
For seven weeks, Two Brothers exclusively produced hand sanitizer. “Our employees took pride in helping first responders. It felt amazing to keep essential workers safe,” said Jason.
The new shift benefited hospitals, police and fire departments, and retirement homes – all in dire need. With Sodexo’s 7,000 gallon purchase the Two Brothers’ hand sanitizer made its way across the nation.
A return to the new normal
Eight months after the pandemic outbreak, Two Brothers returned to brewing, distilling, and roasting. Hand sanitizer production remains a minor part of the business.
“We can’t thank workNet DuPage enough for helping our entire team during such a difficult time,” Jason said. The gratitude goes both ways. workNet DuPage’s unwavering commitment to companies facing challenges reflects the resilient spirit graciously modeled by two local brothers.
This article was featured in workNet DuPage's Year in Review. Learn more about how workNet DuPage steps up to help local businesses during this historic time. Read the entire reporthere.