Photos and article by Ska City Photography; photos from the ACE Creative Economy Mixer on April 23, 2018.
Nine Pin Cider Works is a thriving business that retains the appeal and loyalty of a family-run endeavor despite growing their wholesale footprint to 3 states and housing a large tasting room in the heart of the Capital District.
Bottles are still hand labeled on-site, all employees are empowered to contribute future batch ideas, and the canning line is as likely to be manned by the owner as it is by the Head of Packaging, Justin. Seven massive tanks dominating the warehouse are playfully named after the Seven Dwarves, while 26 smaller capsules are on hand for creating a constantly changing menu of retail seasonal and specialty blends.
Spend a few minutes with Nine Pin Founder and Cider Maker Alejandro del Peral and you will quickly realize that their success is no accident: Alejandro’s infectious enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit, degrees in Biology and Hydrology and experience in Engineering uniquely combine to set a casual, dedicated atmosphere. Asked to have his portrait taken in front of whichever Dwarf tank best fit him on the day of our visit, he walked to Dopey without hesitation. This humility and having mother Sonya (an attorney by day) as the company Business Manager keep Alejandro grounded while leading one of the fastest growing creative businesses in the region.
Location: 929 Broadway, Albany NY [map it!]
Employees: 13 Full-Time, 17 total
In business since: 2013, with the first batch production in February 2014
Products: 4 wholesale cider core products, and 100-150 small batch blends annually
Was any single experience or moment the trigger for your company progressing from an idea to reality?
Alejandro del Peral: It really stemmed from when I was in Grad School – I became very interested in food systems and what I ate and where it was grown. Sustainable food systems usually involve sourcing everything locally, but ‘local beer’ was made with ingredients from all over the world. It was ‘local’ but it wasn’t driving the economy. When I heard that New York had the second largest apple crop in the country that was my “Eureka” moment.
What advice would you give to a person starting a creative business?
AdP: First, you need a lot more money than you think you do. Secondly, you must realize that as much as you want to be creative it is about what your market and customers want and you must be open to being creative within the parameters set by the market you are serving.
What inspires you?
AdP: Inspiration comes from the involvement of everyone in the company. New York produces the most varieties of apples in the country and working with the team to find new blends is inspiring. Having the Tasting Room gives us an outlet to experiment; with our wholesale products we are more reserved with what we produce because there is so much more invested. We can make a 50-gallon batch, put it on tap here and even if it doesn’t turn out incredible we get the feedback from the consumers and it isn’t a huge loss.
Was there a particular moment or milestone where you thought “Ok, now we’ve ‘made it’”?
AdP: I was at a bar and overheard a conversation about our cider and realized the brand had grown beyond just me and those associated with me and my mom. It has its own image out there and it’s not totally in our control any more. Still, there hasn’t been a feeling that we’ve ‘made it’ because we are still in Start-Up mode. Things are going well, but we are not there yet.