Out of the more than 2,000 craft spirits distilleries in the U.S. Du Nord’s is one of the few black owned distilleries in the country. The distillery was founded in 2013 by husband and wife team Chris and Shanelle Montana. The distillery is located in downtown Minneapolis on the same block as the Minneapolis police department that is the headquarters to the officers who caused the death of George Floyd.
Rioters Start Fire Causing Major Damage to Distillery Warehouse
Du Nord shared on its Facebook page that on the evening of May 29, 2020 around 2:00am rioters started a fire in the distilleries warehouse. The post says, “Fires triggered our fire suppression system which dumped over 26,000 gallons of water inside our facility over 4-4.5 hours. The sprinklers did their job, and kept the fire from destroying the building, but the damage is substantial.
“The cocktail room was spared as was the original production facility; both were marked as black owned. Du Nord is in the heart of south Minneapolis and on the same block as the police station that has become the epicenter of frustration rising from repeated instances of police brutality—most recently against George Floyd.”
Over multiple nights of unrest parts of the distillery were damaged while other parts were saved after his employees returned to the distillery on their own and placed multiple signs around the distillery that read ‘Black Owned’. Almost like a hedge of protection those parts of the distillery were left untouched.
This simple two word sign, ‘Black Owned’ likely saved the distillery from further damage.
In the CNN interview below Erin Burnett asks, “On one side you can see all the damage to your business to the distillery, on the other (its) fairly untouched. That’s where your employees put signs saying this is a black owned business. On the other side obviously you said you did not have those signs up. To be direct here do you think the looters perception about your race as the owner was part of this. They didn’t touch the part where it said Black Owned?”
“I think that’s the only conclusion you can come to,” said Chris. “To understand where Du Nord is, where our distillery is, we are on the same block as the 3rd Precinct. That’s the epicenter of these protests. You can’t find a business in any direction that doesn’t have damage. The only spot that doesn’t have damage is what you are showing your viewers right now. That one section of our business that had those signs up. So I have to believe that it mattered. I certainly heard people saying that they did not want to affect black owned businesses or minority owned businesses. I think it did matter.
“I have to point out that it touches me so deeply that my employees did that of their own volition. They came back and they came back to a place where tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bang grenades were going off. They came back just to do that and I will continue to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
A Conversation Parents of Color Have With Their Kids
Burnett goes on to ask Chris about what’s happening with his business after the hardships brought about by Covid-19, shutdowns and a community under distress.
“I know you’ve got three young boys,” says Burnett. “Your oldest is six…What are you telling them about this? They have this huge disruption to their lives and now this happening in their city and to you?
“Well, I’ll be honest with you,” says Montana. “And this is tough for me to talk about. I can’t talk to them about it. I have to lie. As far as they know there have been a number of accidents that caused some fires.
“There’s a terrible thing that parents of color have to do at some point when they tell their kids that they are not going to be viewed the same way. And in this case because of the color of their dad. And my kids are too young for that. The moment that that happens a piece of childhood dies. They are just not ready. I can’t do that to them now. I prefer to be an honest and straight forward person but I, right now I’m not, not with them.”
Calming and Comforting Words from Chris and Shanelle Montana
“Seemingly every other business within miles was looted, burned or damage but today; Du Nord stands. The anger, sadness, and frustration have not subsided, so the destruction will continue tonight. It is not safe for anyone to defend a business, so neither we nor our staff will do so. If Du Nord should be set on fire, no one should enter to try to put it out; there is highly flammable ethanol inside and it is not safe. It’s only stuff, nothing inside is worth a life.
“Shanell and I can only turn the distillery’s fate over to South Minneapolis, our community. I hope to see Du Nord standing tomorrow, but, no matter what happens, we will continue to support peaceful protests our city needs to progress towards a more just and equitable future for all of our kids.
“We love you Minneapolis. We will be a place to heal when you are ready.”
~Chris and Shanelle Montana
How Can You Help Du Nord Craft Spirits? Make a GoFundMe Donation
Separately Chris and Shanelle Montana not thinking about themselves but thinking about their friends in the neighborhood set up a separate GoFundMe page to help raise funds to support other small businesses of color that have also been hurt by the Minneapolis riots.
Goal: $75,000 $100,000: Please help restore peace and rebuild Du Nord. Let Chris and his distillery team know he is not alone. Let him feel our collective embrace. Because insurance adjusters are unlikely to enter the city anytime soon, these funds will go a long way to cover immediate expenses for Chris and his team. This fundraiser is hosted by the American Craft Spirits Association leadership and staff. All proceeds raised will go to Du Nord Craft Spirits. Learn more and donate here.
Goal: $30,000 $100,000 $250,000 $1,000,000: We have received a tidal wave of love and support from across the nation and many have asked how they can help. Thanks to the support we have received and an impending insurance claim, we feel funds would be better directed to our sister businesses in distress. Therefore, Du Nord is establishing this fund to support black and brown companies affected by the riots. In the coming days we will add to the leadership team to bring in more business owners and community leaders. We are dedicated to rebuilding Minneapolis in a way that ensures our cultural beacons are restored. Learn more and donate here.
UPDATE June 2, 2020: Our original goal was $30,000 and we blew past that in hours. The outpouring of support has been truly humbling. We will be announcing additions to the management team soon. For now we have again increased our goal and hope you will continue to raise awareness of this effort. Thank you all so much for your donations and your trust in us to administer the funds.
UPDATE: We’ve been told we are not thinking big enough, we’ve upped the amount…..We are in tears of gratitude!
Chris and Shanelle Montana certainly are beacons of hope as they look beyond their own needs as they try to help their neighbors of color while they simultaneously rebuild their own business.
We look forward to watching this phoenix rise from the ashes as they prepare to soar. Please consider a donation to the cause.
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