The opening of a good book is usually preceded with acknowledgements. Maybe before opening, a business ought to acknowledge folks who helped along the way as well. Here’s our effort to thank some of the folks who’ve helped us to get to where we are at so far. We’re sure the list will continue to grow.
We’ve been lucky so far to get some truly great people to work with us. It started with Bergere Stevenson and Osieda Bah who harvested apples with us in 2017. Conversations were never dull with those two, and the work always got done efficiently. We hope to still see Oseida from time to time – maybe he’ll even come back and work for us someday. And we’re lucky to still have Bergere around. He’s been incredibly patient through all of our business startup missteps. We’ve given him countless planned start dates only to see them fall through, and he’s still stuck with us. He’s now applying his uncanny knowledge of food and his creative genius to our kitchen where he’s creating some amazing dishes. We’re excited to see what he comes up with through the seasons, and we’re extremely thankful to have him around.
In 2018 we hired Dan Callahan. He’s also a rock star of cider production, and we lean on him heavily to get all of our ciders made. He knows cider inside and out, and we take comfort in knowing that he is on top of things even when we aren’t. He’s also managing our distribution and account relationships, so he’s a busy guy. We randomly met Dan via his orchardist parents whom we met at an apple grower school, and we couldn’t have gotten a better guy for the job.
We were lucky to have Matt’s sister Beth picking and pressing apples with us this fall. Working for her brother probably wasn’t Beth’s dream come true, but she’s never complained about it. For us, it’s been great to have family involved, and it’s been a chance to get to know each other again after many years of one or the other living in faraway places.
More recently, we hired John Scheineson to help us plan out our kitchen. John stumbled into our lives, and we’re grateful to have his passion for bringing together community through local food and his powerful engineering brain thinking through the logistics of our kitchen. Between John and the rest of the culinary team we’re bringing together, our food is going to be awesome. We put a lot of pressure on John to figure out a kitchen quickly so that we could open shortly after construction ended in our building, and John has taken on the challenge with gusto.
We really excited about new people who joined us recently – Kerry, April, Austin, Sarah, Courtney, and Paul (and possibly a couple more TBD). We’re truly fortunate to have such talented people willing to join us as we get started. Many of them are far more experienced than us in managing restaurants and tasting rooms, and quite honestly, we’re learning more from them than they’re learning from us!
We’ve also had some help here and there from volunteers – Evan, Adam, and Corey come to mind. Halee, John, Eric, and Amy have also been great friends to hang out with and keep us sane. Thanks guys!
We have a lot of people to thank when it comes to getting the money together to make this happen.
First, let’s thank Steve Schlecht and Schlecht Retail Ventures. As our landlord, Steve is really taking a chance on us, and he invested a lot in remodeling our building and getting it ready for us to move in. We couldn’t be happier with how the space turned out, and we fully expect to make his investment pay off.
We should also thank Paul Dietmann and Compeer Financial for taking a chance on us and giving us the business loan that is paying for a good chunk of the costs on our end. We should also thank our house for significantly going up in value over the last few years such that we could take out a decent sized home equity line of credit. Thanks house! We also haven’t been able to afford a new truck just yet, so thanks to our 2002 Silverado with its near 200,000 miles for somehow surviving the last few years of apple harvest and all the thousands of pounds of apples and juice that we’ve hauled around. Thanks truck!
On the topic of financials, we never would have gotten a loan in the first place without the wisdom and advise of Tera Johnson of the Food Finance Institute. Tera has been with us since the earliest planning stages, and she’s been truly instrumental in helping to shape our vision. Tera was our “dream crusher” who told us straight up when something wouldn’t work. In the rare case when we did find ideas that might work, she would light a fire under our butts to make it happen. She has an uncanny eye for what works in food and beverage businesses, and we were lucky to have her on our team. She also hooked us up with Dan Lemmer of the Small Business Development Center, who walked us through setting up our first pro forma (no easy task by the way).
And speaking of terrible paperwork, numbers, and people named Dan, thanks to Dan Coulthard for patiently walking us through all of our accounting – finding where we are $0.50 off and showing us what piles of tax paperwork we need to fill out.
Our financial package also would not have been complete without some grant funds. Early on we received a Buy Local Buy Wisconsin grant from the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. It wasn’t a huge grant, but seriously, we would not have gotten through our first apple picking season without it. Kietra Olson has been wonderful to work with on the grant.
We are also part of a federal Value Added Producer Grant through USDA that is helping us get this thing off the ground. Thanks to Mike Daniels for always promptly and patiently helping us navigate the paperwork! We are working with Munchkey Apples on the grant, and we are grateful to have them as a partner.
In fact, Laura and Brad Tisch from Munchkey Apples deserve a huge thanks for many things. They’re our biggest apple supplier (and we wouldn’t get anywhere without apples). They also let us use their space for grinding and pressing apples. It’s super loud and super messy, and they put up with us. Thanks Laura, Brad, the whole family, and the rest of the Munchkey Apples crew! The crew even gives us occasional cider donuts which really help us power through a long day of apple pressing.
Speaking of apple growers. We’re incredibly thankful for all the growers whose apples we use in our cider. We’ve sourced apples from 18 Wisconsin farms to date, and on most of those farms, we’ve picked the apples ourselves. If people were uptight and selfish, our business model simply wouldn’t work. Thankfully, in our experience, people in the world of apples tend to be open minded and generous.
Thanks in particular to Rami and Tom who helped us press apples in 2017, and thanks to Dave and Sandra at Appleberry – our fastest fall sales account. Also thanks to Lisa and Dale at Albion Prairie Farm, where we not only harvested apples a few years in a row, but where we’ve also collected scionwood and partnered on apple experiments. And speaking of Albion Prairie Farm, thanks to Dan Bussey for keeping apple history alive in Wisconsin and for always willingly sharing knowledge and ideas.
We’re also lucky to live in an area with such great local food, and we’re thankful for the farmers who are supplying our farm to table food menu. Special thanks to April from Dorothy’s Range for the awesome apple/pork partnership. We plan to source from a lot of local farms over the coming years, and we know that it’s hard work that never pays enough. Thanks farmers!
We’re also thankful to have a few other good cider makers in the area. In particular, we’re thankful for the work of Deirdre and John at the Cider Farm for introducing so many people in the area to good cider. All of the other local cider makers we’ve met have had a positive, community spirit as well… maybe we should all start a support group.
The person whom we probably owe the greatest thanks is Paul Blommel from Indigenous Wines and Ciders in Stoughton. To date, all Brix Cider products have been made at Paul’s winery using Paul’s equipment. He’s been generous with his time, and we’ve learned a great deal from Paul about how to produce cider on a commercial scale. We originally only planned to do a couple little test batches with Paul, but as our real estate odyssey dragged on, we kept making more and more batches. A huge thanks to Paul for his patience, understanding, and willingness to work with us. Without Paul, we would not be anywhere close to where we are today.
Thanks also to the sales accounts who took a risk and chose to carry our products. They are now too many to list and thank individually, but we do want to thank some of the first. Trollway Liquor in Mount Horeb was our very first account. Thanks Missy! Steve’s on Mckee, Jenifer Street Market, and Regent Market Coop were also among our first accounts. Also, a special thanks to Sukh at Best Plaza Liquor in Stoughton and Rick at Verona Wine Cellar for being the first to reach out to us. In all the growth of craft beverages over the years, the role of local liquor stores in supporting small entrepreneurs has often been understated and under-appreciated.
And speaking of people willing to take a risk on a new product, thanks to all of our customers! Without all of you buying our product and giving us positive feedback, we probably would have given up on this dream a couple years ago. We know there are many cheaper options on the shelves, and we appreciate your willingness to pay a little extra for a quality, locally grown, locally crafted product. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope to continue winning you over.
We have several people to thank on our building. National Contruction Inc (NCI) was great to work with, and they miraculously kept the construction project close to on time. Bryan, the project manager, was always friendly and quick to respond. Peter, who worked with us before retiring, was also great, and we were happy to have him on our side. All the sub-contractors have done a great job as well. We worked closely with The Electrician Inc, and Kevin, Josh, and Matt were always on the ball, friendly, and helpful. They worked with us and didn’t complain about all of our last-minute equipment changes. Thanks also to Pertborne, Capitol Mechanical, Halman Lindsey, and Coyle for getting their work done in a timely, professional manner.
Our tasting room wouldn’t be nearly as pretty without the beautiful work of Graham and Eric from Linscott’s Local Hardwoods. About 4 years ago Graham came to our farm, cut down a few walnut trees, and milled them for us. We let them dry in our barn, and a few years later Graham and Eric built them into beautiful tables and an awesome bar.
Thanks also to Mount Horeb for being such a welcoming community. People in the village government have been friendly and helpful, and neighboring businesses have freely shared advice and insights. Special thanks to Tasha and Cindy at Sunn Café for always encouraging us! We’re also excited to be new members of the Mount Horeb Area Chamber of Commerce. Great things are happening in Mount Horeb, and we’re excited to be a part of it. We’ve recently met some great folks who live in the neighborhood, and they’ve made us feel warmly welcomed.
We’re also lucky to have the coolest group of lawyers around with Ogden Glazer + Shaefer. They’ve gone out of their way to help us out, and they’ve always been reasonable.
Joyce, our childcare provider deserves some special thanks, for putting up with our kids and our sometimes-last-minute schedule changes. We have no idea how she does it, and we’re grateful to know that our kids are in good hands.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we should thank our parents, who (in addition to all those years of putting up with us as kids) have helped us in countless ways large and small as we’ve worked towards starting this business over the years. Other family members have helped and chipped in as well, most notably Anna and Ryan when we’ve been in a childcare pinch.
This is probably our longest blog post to date, but that’s because there are so many people to thank. Hopefully we didn’t forget too many people! This business really is not just about Marie and me. It takes a whole community. To all of those who have helped Brix Cider come to fruition, cheers and THANK YOU!!!