GOOD

How an Old Barn and a Cider Press Became a Thriving Small Business and a Local Institution

This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing...

This post celebrating a timeless small business is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing stories about innovative small businesses that are changing business as usual for their communities and beyond. Learn how UPS is helping small businesses work better and more sustainably here.


When you talk to Tom Schierman about his company, the 35-year-old Louisburg Cider Mill & Country Store, you get the sense that good things can come to hardworking folks—like having an already-established hobby business when times got tough, like landing in a small patch of tourist-attracting rolling hills in Kansas, like having a father-in-law with a master plan.

Today, Louisburg Cider Mill & Country Store is a thriving year-round business that offers the sort of autumn attractions that become part of families’ annual rituals—a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, a two-weekend-long Ciderfest with live music and pony rides. More than three decades ago, that same site lay bare with empty land and a neglected hay barn.

Back in 1977, Tom and Shelly Schierman were newlyweds. Shelly’s dad had a piece of land with an old barn in Louisburg, Kansas, and after learning about a friend’s seasonal cider mill, her father posed the idea that they launch a similar small venture. “My father-in-law had a plan,” Tom Schierman remembers, chuckling, “and he saw me as cheap labor.”

The cider mill began as an autumn project. Out of a 120-year-old barn, the couple sold cider doughnuts and fresh apple cider, “and of course, back in those days we didn’t pasteurize or anything,” Schierman says. “We just made it fresh off the press.” They filled and sold jugs of cider straight out of that old barn. It was a nice side business, but Shierman already had a job working in construction.

“What brought us to a more serious level was in 1980, [mortgage] interest rates went through the roof,” Schierman recalls. Much like with the recent housing bust, when the real estate market froze, so did construction. The couple began to look into developing cider as a year-round wholesale product.

Like many start-ups, the Schiermans went through a period of research and hustle. They visited wholesale cider-makers to the north in Michigan, got advice on what processing equipment to use. They didn’t have their own orchard so they linked up with growers in Missouri and a few in Kansas. To this day, Louisburg Cider comes entirely from U.S.-grown apples.

They learned by doing, but started at a time when they would be first in their niche regionally. “When we got into the business, there was not much natural cider on the shelf,” Schierman notes. However, cider’s seasonality—part of what first drew the couple into the business in the first place—proved to be a challenge. From late August until the start of January, stores want cider on their shelves, but soon after it's less of a draw for customers. In spring and summer, Louisburg Cider began making sparkling ciders, a signature root beer (as part of its Lost Trail soda line), fruit butters, and lemonades. “We do things in the opposite time of the year just to keep our production facility going and keep our core people employed,” said Schierman.

“They’re always evolving,” said Jason E. Camis, executive director of the local Paola Chamber of Commerce. He cites Louisburg Cider as a company that isn’t afraid to experiment each year with new products, and yet has managed to hold on to its roots. At the same time that new salsas and barbeque sauces might appear under the company’s label, said Camis, “they do a good job of keeping the base of who they are.”

And that base, according to Camis, is right at the heart of Louisburg, Kansas. Of the mill, he says, “it’s kind of an icon in our region.”

Camis points out Shelly’s role on the local Rotary Club, her past service on the local school board. “You’re hard-pressed to go to any community event and not see a basket that they’ve donated for fundraisers,” says Camis.

In Louisburg, which rests in an unusually hilly, forested region similar to the Ozarks, the Schiermans have become part of a local growth in agritourism. On the area’s rich soil, a handful of local wineries have cropped up over the past decade. Within half an hour of Kansas City, visitors come for cider and stop for wine, or come out to wine country and stop for cider. “We have a small emu farm and other places in the agritourism realm that have grown out of their proximity and involvement,” says Camis.

Like other small businesses, Louisburg Cider Mill’s success has been a mixed bag of hard work and a little luck (both good and bad). In the early years, there wasn’t much capital behind the business and they ran things lean. Today, Schierman warns other would-be business owners that capital is crucial, that cash flow is always a challenge. “Sometimes you run into times that aren’t as good as others,” he explains. Last season, a late bloom and early freeze ruined ninety percent of their source apple crop—doubling apple prices. “A one-hundred percent increase on your number one raw material—that’s a hard one to handle,” Schierman warns that as a business owner, you have to be ready for hard times.

But a renaissance in ciders, particularly hard ciders, can be a gateway for new customers. The promise of natural, healthy products is a desired perk for others. After more than three decades in business, their products are still on shelves regionally but now anyone can find their fruit butters, sparkling ciders, root beers, and more online, ready to ship to hungry customers anywhere. “We were fortunate,” Schierman reflects. “Ours are different than a lot of people’s products—a lot of our competition is using concentrates and doing something different than what we’re doing.” Old-fashioned simplicity and an ever-evolving business sense seem to have something to do with that good fortune as well.

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet