Virus Diaries: Packaged Rollout 'Saving Grace' of Black Apple in Age of COVID-19

Virus Diaries: Packaged Rollout 'Saving Grace' of Black Apple in Age of COVID-19
Editor's Note: This is the ninth in a series of short features on small businesses responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Black Apple Crossing is offering only curbside and delivery service from its taproom in Springdale, has temporarily laid off a couple of folks, and has cut hours for other employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hard cider maker is not distributing kegs to hundreds of the state’s bars and restaurants either, most of which have closed or are only offering curbside pickup and/or delivery service.

But Black Apple has good news to share. This week, its launch of canned ciders in stores all over the state went as planned. 

“That's kind of our saving grace right now, that we are not fully reliant on that bar-and-restaurant model for survival,” said Misty Orpin, events and marketing coordinator. “We've really put a lot of emphasis on our retail presence … It's very fortunate for us that we did roll out around the rest of the state at the time that we did; that gave us a lot more flexibility.”

The business is also offering online ordering for the first time, bundling that with curbside pickup and delivery to offset some losses at the taproom.

Orpin said most of the taproom staff worked on a part-time basis. The business has been able to keep most of them employed doing other things, the manager among them. Two others have transitioned to serve as delivery drivers and to work the curbside pickup, and one staffer has been deep cleaning for Black Apple.

Orpin said hours have been reduced for some staff, and the business laid off a couple of people so that they could draw unemployment. “We felt like that was the better thing for them, rather than us cutting their hours back to almost nothing.” 

The production staff remains employed.

While Black Apple is “innovating our way out of this,” Orpin said the pandemic has significantly dented its bottom line and changed revenue and profit expectations for the year.

Black Apple expects to apply for governmental aid, such as small business loans. Orpin said, “[We were] definitely impacted, and we are going to need some help getting over that gap because it is huge.”

She also said, “We're very confident that we're going to be fine. And we're actually going to come out of this with some solutions that we created” that will work in the long term. 

Orpin noted that the community had been supportive as well, buying gift cards for when the taproom reopens and using the curbside and delivery service. “I think that's incredibly important right now because we don't have as much to fall back on or as much of a safety net … And so I almost feel like our customers and their built-in loyalty is our, has been our, safety net.”