Opening to a pandemic: Bryant’s Small Batch Cider in Shockoe faces difficult first year of operations

Business

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Bryant’s Small Batch Cider is a new cidery in Shockoe Bottom that opened a week before Virginia’s stay-at-home order went info effect in March. Now, the owner says the business is struggling to gain new customers after reopening in Phase Three.

A tough reality to face — Bryant’s owner, Jerry Thornton, says they closed their doors nearly right after their grand opening. He said they got the building in January and the first weekend they could open was the weekend they had to shut down.

“For the most part, we were ready to go,” Thornton said. “And then… shut it back down. It was a little bit discouraging.”

He says Bryant’s was able to do delivery services through Phase Two and kept the location closed to customers until Phase Three began when he could allow for limited indoor seating.

Thornton says he still never really got the chance to make the small-batch cidery’s name well-known due to the lack of word-of-mouth advertisement and product distribution.

“We wanna promote — but not over-promote. We want to get people in the door. Now that we have gotten back open it’s been kind of a struggle letting people know we’re here and we’re open,” Thornton said. “A lot of people haven’t heard of us, or especially know if we exist.”

He says the apples that make his uniquely hand-crafted, zero-sugar ciders come from his nearly 170-year-old family farm and 45-acre orchard in Nelson County near Crabtree Falls and Wintergreen — and he has added a few apple trees behind his location in Shockoe Bottom as well.

Thornton also says his business is expanding into the craft seltzer market — with their first “River City Seltzer” set for release on September 11.

River City Seltzer — by Jerry Thornton

But he says he knows the business is not alone when it comes to struggling.

“You have to stay positive. Every restaurant, brewery, cidery in Richmond is struggling. If you don’t keep the positive attitude you’re not going to survive,” Thornton said.

He has also faced some issues within Richmond that have stunted his businesses growth.

Bryant’s location in Shockoe Bottom has limited outside space – they are on E. Main Street and their door opens to a sidewalk. Because of this, they have been unable to add a lot of patio seating to bring in more customers.

“It makes it really hard to adapt,” Thornton added. “It’s what we all have to do at this point. Adapt, and adapt, and adapt to meet what customers can safely do without strong support from the city to get things done. It’s rough for everyone but it’s adapt and survive at this point.”

Now, Thornton is just remaining hopeful for more distributors to give his products a chance.

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