These days, one could compare hard-to-find hand sanitizer to liquid gold.
In early March, COVID-19 transformed hand disinfectant into a highly coveted item. Seeing the growing demand, Jeff Honea decided to get “in front of the curve” by selling homemade hand sanitizer. For the past few weeks, he’s been selling the precious liquid at Chelsea Apothecary. Customers bring their empty bottles for filling at Honea’s family pharmacy on Highway 280 in Chelsea.
“There’s been lots of interested people calling because nobody else has hand sanitizer,” Honea said.
Upon hearing that many stores were running out of alcohol-based hand cleanser, he got a “wild hair” to make his own.
“I have a family member who knows someone who was looking for thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer,” Honea said. “I realized I’d have to make several thousand bottles to break even.”
Honea, who grew up working in an independent pharmacy, was up for the challenge. A 1998 graduate of the Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy, his father and grandfather were pharmacists. He has owned and managed Chelsea Apothecary for nearly 20 years.
Honea ordered ethanol by freight, as well as aloe vera powder and distilled water. Calling friends, family and volunteers, he assembled an 18-member team. After closing his pharmacy doors March 13, Honea and his team began the painstaking process of compounding the hand disinfectant.
Honea worked from 6 p.m. that Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday. After 4 hours of sleep, he worked from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. That weekend, he and his team made more than 700 gallons of hand sanitizer.
“We compounded it like any other pharmaceutical product,” Honea said. “Our product is unscented, but people notice right away from the smell that it’s antiseptic. We were the first to market and get to have the ethanol. A week after that, ethanol was no longer available.”
Honea is thrilled that he and his team could meet the community needs during the COVID-19 crisis, thanks to some foresight and everyone’s hard work. His pharmacy has sold as much as 5-gallon buckets of sanitizer to large corporations.
“It was cool to see how many people came in to volunteer their time to help, and it’s been really amazing to have local restaurants and large, out-of-state corporations using our product,” Honea said. “Because they’ve had hand sanitizer, these restaurants are still doing carry-out and delivery.
“We’re a little country pharmacy,” he said. “It’s made us feel really good to help out.”
The product: Have your empty bottles filled with hand sanitizer, or ask pharmacist and owner Jeff Honea to ship the product to your home. He and his staff fill 2-ounce and 4-ounce bottles for $5 and $8, respectively.
Visit: Chelsea Apothecary
16688 Highway 280
Chelsea, Alabama 35043
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Order by email: [email protected].