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Business Briefs: With public's help, San Luis Obispo cidery expands

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Morgan Murphy, left, and her spouse, Maggie Przybylski, sit in front of fermenting equipment and barrels of their cider at Two Broads Cider in San Luis Obispo. Photo: Courtesy Two Broads Cider
Morgan Murphy, left, and her spouse, Maggie Przybylski, sit in front of fermenting equipment and barrels of their cider at Two Broads Cider in San Luis Obispo. Photo: Courtesy Two Broads Cider  

Three years ago this October Bay Area native Maggie Przybylski and her wife, Morgan Murphy, debuted their Two Broads Cider brand at the Hardcore Cider Tour in their hometown of San Luis Obispo. They were inspired to become commercial cider makers by a trip to Spain where they tasted various fermented apple concoctions from across Europe.

"We have been home brewers for 15 years making beer. We originally wanted to open a deep dish pizza place and a brewpub then realized it would be way super expensive and wasn't going to work," said Murphy, 41, who grew up in Orange County. "But we were also making cider. Our area is interesting in that it has microclimates that are good for apple growing. Some orchards grow heirloom apples. We kind of just started thinking more about cider."

The women, who are both bisexual, have been together since 2001 after meeting while they were students at Cal Poly. They married in late 2015, having decided earlier that year to enter the cider business.

"We eloped," noted Murphy, in order to save money for their cidery.

With ciders growing in popularity, the couple took a chance on leasing a space in a more industrial area of their Central Coast city to set up shop. They source their apples from local growers and favor drier ciders over sweeter blends.

"Cider wants to be dry," explained Murphy.

With punny names like "Kumquat May" and "Mawage," their craft ciders quickly found a following among aficionados at the various cider festivals Two Broads would participate in. Soon local restaurants and stores were carrying their brand, followed by places in the Bay Area such as Oakland's Crooked City Cider and lesbian-owned The Cider Junction in San Jose. They hope to add San Francisco outlets later this year.

Pandemic upends plans
When the coronavirus outbreak hit in March, it upended their business plans. They had to quickly pivot from mainly selling kegs of cider to other businesses to marketing their ciders directly to the public. In the spring they launched an order page on their website to ship bottles of cider to customers in California and Colorado, where they are licensed to do so, and are in the process of adding additional states.

"We primarily sold to restaurants and bars. Those all shut down for months, and we lost sales on that. But it helped us focus on direct to customer and we set up online," said Murphy, a software engineer with Amazon. "We are selling a lot more bottles now. Our revenue is close to where it was before, we are just selling a different format."

They also decided to seek the public's help in expanding their cidery space to include a tasting room and outdoor patio adjacent to a seasonal creek where people could enjoy their offerings onsite. (Currently, people can only stop by the cidery to pick up their online orders.) The women launched a Kickstarter campaign in the spring and addressed their doing so during a pandemic in their fundraising pitch.

"Well, we can account for that social distancing. And more than ever people need a place to get out to that will soothe that caged spirit," they noted. "Our patio and high ceilings are going to be that place for social distance cider sipping. And as things change, we will adapt the tasting room to the new normal."

Their pitch worked, with 200 people donating $25,764 toward the project, which will see their cidery increase to 3,000 square feet. Three people donated at least $750 in order to have their own dedicated tasting room seat.

"It made it down to the wire. We were a week out from our deadline and then it took off," said Przybylski, 39, who grew up in Oakland. "Maybe everybody sensed the desperation in my content!"

(Full disclosure, this reporter has long been friends with Przybylski's brother and sister-in-law. It was their posting about the fundraising campaign on social media that brought attention to the Two Broads Cider business.)

Construction of the expansion is ongoing, and the couple is aiming for it to be completed by the end of the year. By late October, though, they hope to start hosting some public events at the cidery. Due to the health crisis, they are planning to have limited capacity with people wishing to visit needing to make a reservation online beforehand.

"We are updating our production area, built a cold room for storing cider and apples, and building an additional bathroom, tasting room, and outdoor patio. That is going to be our lifeblood. Right now, with the restrictions in California, everything is outdoors," said Przybylski, who plans to quit her restaurant job to focus fulltime on the cidery once they do open to the public.

Years ago Przybylski had left her job as a field biologist with the state parks in order to learn firsthand about the hospitality industry. Their Two Broads Cider at 3427 Roberto Court, Suite 130, in San Luis Obispo is now part of an emerging local alcoholic craft maker area with several breweries and another cidery located nearby.

"If they do any kind of advertising, we are right across the parking lot and people can see us," said Przybylski, who is trying to lure a food truck to set up by them. "When you have food and cider there are opportunities for pairings and the mutual benefits are various and fun."

Despite their expansion, the women want to remain craft cider makers offering their more popular blends and seasonally unique batches dependent on the apple varieties they source.

"From there we will see," said Murphy. "We don't have ambitions to get huge. We kind of want to serve our community and cider fans."

At some point they would like to own their own apple orchard, where they can plant various heirloom apple tree varietals with an eye toward those better suited for a hotter, drier climate. Doing so has been out of their budget.

"We are hoping maybe the pandemic will bring prices down. Our next goal is to find some acreage where we can establish an orchard," said Murphy. "We have always wanted to do that, it is just so expensive in California. We would like to start breeding our own varieties of apples, especially in anticipation of climate change."

To learn more about the cidery, visit https://twobroadscider.com/

Got a tip on LGBT business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com


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