Du Nord Social Spirits and Du Nord Foundation – MSR News Online

Photo by Ken Friberg

Gains on black owned properties seen in rehab on Lake Street

A lot has happened in the last three years for Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits, the first black owned distillery in the US.

In 2020, he faced the destruction of his South Minneapolis distillery during the riot following the police killing of George Floyd. He responded by establishing the Du Nord Foundation to give back to the community affected by the uprising.

Since the MSR spoke to Montana in 2021, the foundation has partnered with Delta Air Lines to create a BIPOC growth incubator and accelerator, an initiative designed to improve access to capital and advice for current small businesses and potential business owners.

Delta Air Lines also began serving Du Nord’s Foundation Vodka on its flights, and the distillery was recently named to USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice list for Best Craft Gin Distillery.

Recalling the origins of the foundation and initiative, Montana noted, “Perhaps less than a week after the assassination of George Floyd, we sat down and thought about what we wanted to use our business for.

“And, you know,” Montana continued, “the first thing was to deal with food deserts. This was our emergency response where we ran out of the damaged part of our distillery.”

During the social unrest of 2020, many community members did not have access to food as many facilities were closed due to the protests and the pandemic. Montana and the team used the portion of their distillery damaged by the protests as a solution to the food crisis.

The next phase of her vision was helping local businesses stay afloat. “The second part was some grants that we gave — $15,000 to 73 different companies to help them stay open,” Montana said. In the current phase of Du Nord, the foundation is working to increase the number of small business owners. Wealth incubator and accelerator BIPOC has partnered with Delta Air Lines to achieve its goals.

When asked how Delta Air Lines got on board, Montana described a synergy initiated by the airline. “Really, because Delta Air Lines did the work, I’d like to say it was my business acumen or something else, but the real answer is that Delta reached out to us to see if there was an opportunity .

Courtesy of Du Nord Social Spirits Chris Montana

“And we didn’t think it was because we just weren’t ready at the time. Even if we hadn’t been damaged in 2020, we wouldn’t have been ready.

“But you know, at that time, making spirits was pretty far from ours, but they were persistent. They were willing to work with us. You know, Delta as a big company has done in many ways what we’ve been trying to do as a small company for years, which is hire people who don’t necessarily have the skills that we need, but we know that we can build them, and on this way we can diversify the industry.

“Well, Delta did the same to us. We didn’t have the production, capacity or distribution they needed. But they were willing to work with us and be patient. It took a year and a half, but finally we made it and got on board.”

Montana spoke about creating the foundation and why taking the time to properly set up the foundation was crucial for the organization. “First, we didn’t know we were going to have a foundation. We had no money.

“We started GoFundMe to raise some money [after the protests started and the building was partially damaged]. We initially set it at $30,000 and reached it in hours. Then we kept going and higher and higher and higher and higher and by the end we had raised like a million dollars.”

Courtesy of Du Nord Spirits

Montana continued, “So we set up the foundation so that the money doesn’t go to me and a third of it is taxed, it can go to the foundation. Then we could use 100% of the funds for the intended purpose, which is to help the community during a difficult time.”

The Du Nord Foundation has enabled the Du Nord Company to properly and transparently funnel funds raised during the uprising to the community.

“I can say I’m very excited about a number of developments in the Twin Cities and I think the community has been waiting to see what happens to the Lake Street corridor and some of these buildings and if it’s business as usual continues or if it is a different model.”

He added: “We are involved in two projects of different models, one on the Colosseum and one on one of the buildings, formerly Seven Sigma, both of which were affected during the riots.

“Both will return as black-owned real estate – something we don’t see in the commercial space – that will work to employ people from the community and give them platforms to achieve their dreams.” So I’m really excited about these two projects and I hope people will tune in and follow their progress.”

For more information on Du Nord Social Spirits and the Du Nord Foundation, visit dunordsocialspirits.com and dunordsocialspirits.com/foundation.

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