Neighborhood Heroes: Brian Christenson, Blinking Owl Distillery

Amid the catastrophic coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important to take a step back and recognize the positives. Appreciating glimmers of light inspires us to overcome these dark and challenging times together.

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One beacon is selfless service. We have noticed the countless acts, both small and large, by organizations and individuals alike, working hard to minimize lasting damage. These are not only folks on the front lines—ER doctors, nurses, first responders—but also the good Samaritans next door, preventing this crisis from damaging their immediate communities. These are the grocery store stockers, the postal workers, the small business owners, and even those who are shopping for their elderly neighbors. These are the Neighborhood Heroes.

We tip our hats and raise our glasses to all of the local heroes out there—to honor those doing the thankless work now to help their communities down the road to an uncertain future ahead.

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In this first installment of Neighborhood Heroes, we’re highlighting the crew of Blinking Owl Distillery in Orange County, California. We recently caught up with CEO Brian Christenson to find out what he’s doing to help.

blinking owlLeft to right: Head distiller for Blinking Owl Ryan Friesen, and co-owners Brian and Robin Christenson Photo: Courtesy of Blinking Owl Distillery

Name: Brian Christenson
Title: Chief Executive Owl, Blinking Owl Distillery
Location: Santa Ana, Calif.
Years on the Job: 5

MJ: How has your work changed in the last two weeks?
BRIAN CHRISTENSON: It’s drastically changed. Our entire logistics has switched over from production of vodkas, aquavit, gin and whiskies to producing hand sanitizer full-time. This means sourcing new ingredients, new bottles/packaging, new equipment, and a new process which requires a lot of improvising and learning on the fly.

What’s the greatest challenge at hand right now?
Not being able to produce enough hand sanitizer to meet demand, which also means we can’t get it to as many people as we would like to.

Do you feel at-risk or threatened?
I think we all feel a bit at risk and uneasy from the unknown of this pandemic. Those feelings do not overpower the overwhelming response of gratitude and support we are receiving daily from the community, who are encouraging and thanking us daily. It really propels us forward.

Do you recognize any signs of hope?
The overwhelming positive response from people who are donating material, time and money. It is amazing to see and experience the support, kindness and willingness from people all over who want to contribute to our efforts.

Do you feel that people should be working right now? How can folks help in all this?
I do not have a good answer other than try to do what the experts ask for the greater good of us all. We are trying to do what we can by making hand sanitizer, while also doing what we can to limit the risk of exposure to our staff, customers and community. Hopefully this is providing something of value to everyone during these strange, uncertain times.

You can donate to Blinking Owl’s initiatives here.

Do you know a Neighborhood Hero making a difference on the front lines of your community? There are three easy ways to nominate someone to be featured: 1. Nominate your Neighborhood Hero in the comments below and simply let us know why they deserve to be featured and how we can contact them. 2. Send us a Direct Message on Men’s Journal Instagram with your nomination. 3. Post their photo on Instagram using #weoweyouadrink (either on Stories or Feed). 

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