A Janesville beverage company will get $20,000 a month to help it through the pandemic, a company official said.
The donations come from fundraising by Barstool Sports and its eccentric and controversial founder, Dave Portnoy.
“I just feel so honored. There are really no words to describe how generous this is. I can’t believe our little voice was heard,” said Sarah Gray of Gray Brewing, who helps run the business with her brother, Jacob, and their father, owner Robert “Fred” Gray.
Gray said she follows Barstool and Portnoy on Instagram, and when he announced his plans last month, she sent an email immediately, explaining the Gray history and how the pandemic has hurt the business.
Monday, Barstool asked for a video, which Sarah and Fred produced. Sarah said she was surprised to get a call from Portnoy on Tuesday morning, telling her of the donation. She held her young son in one arm as she excitedly responded to the video call.
“I’m still in shock,” Sarah said Wednesday.
Gray Brewing got funding through the federal Payroll Protection Program, which ended in October, and then Fred Gray stopped taking a paycheck, and Sarah cut her hours, Sarah said, so the company could maintain employees’ pay and health insurance.
The company employs eight people, including the family members.
Sarah is going through the frustrating process of trying to figure out if the company can apply for help under the COVID-19 aid bill passed last week.
If government aid comes through, she would check with the Barstool Fund to see if the money could be used for utilities or supplies, she said.
Gray Brewing is marking its 165th year. It brews craft beers and bottles carbonated soft drinks, as well as packaging bottled goods for other beverage makers.
Brewery tours were suspended and a tasting room was closed during the pandemic.
Liquor sales are up, but craft beer sales are down during the pandemic, Sarah said. When bars were closed, one of Gray’s top revenue sources—barrels of beer—was cut off. The UW-Madison Memorial Union was a top customer, buying 120 to 140 half barrels per summer, but the union was closed for the summer, she said.
Beer festivals also dried up.
Supplies, such as labels, are harder to get with wait times lengthening from two weeks to five or six weeks, she said.
Sarah said she wants to pay it forward to small restaurants and bars in Rock County that are hurting, especially those who carry Gray products.
Barstool reported Wednesday it had raised more than $19 million, with donations made to 82 businesses.
Barstool Sports posts articles and video relating to sports and popular culture with an adult bent that might not be suitable for children.
Barstool’s Portnoy has been accused of using racist and sexist language and being anti-union. Sarah said she didn’t hesitate to take the donation and is just focusing on the positives.
“I think what Dave is doing now with his platform is just amazing. He is doing something good with it,” Sarah said. “So many people in this world have big platforms and don’t do anything for us little guys. … I’m just a little guy in Janesville, Wisconsin, trying to keep a business alive. … I can’t thank them enough.”