Ideas flowed freely along with the cider, when young middle-market professionals gathered in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Aug. 10 for a tour of Vander Mill, the largest craft hard cider producer in the Midwest.
Owner Paul Vander Heide spoke to some 75 ACG Western Michigan members and guests about how his business started, how the current model differs from the original plan and why it has led to success.
“Don’t ever ask a contractor if something can be done,” Vander Heide jokingly told guests, who also spent time networking, sampling cider and snacking on appetizers. “The answer is always yes. It just takes money.”
With humble beginnings in 2006 as a seasonal cider mill, Vander Mill switched to hard cider a couple years later and now distributes to stores, bars and restaurants throughout the Midwest. The business recently completed a $4 million expansion, more than quadrupling production volume as well as a taproom and restaurant that seat more than 150.
Vander Heide also talked about the growth of the spirits industry as a whole, how he financed the new facility and how the company has dealt with issues along the way. Overall, the business has experienced revenue growth in excess of 300 percent over the past three years.