In November 2009 my wife and I attended a charity event to benefit our local public schools, and after participating in nearly every possible raffle and auction, won a trip to Middlebury, Vermont and a chance to visit the Woodchuck Cidery. The trip was donated by an ex-local, Bret Williams, who now lives in Vermont but graduated from Oakmont, our public high school. It was actually a fun prize—we stayed in an old Middlebury Inn, rumored as usual to be haunted, ate at a wonderful restaurant, and also went on a tour of the cidery that had donated the trip……we decided we’d write about it for “the Vine”, the news magazine we then published.
It turned out to be an incredible experience. We were expecting to see some type of antique apple squishing operation in an old barn, and instead saw a state-of-the-art operation that bottled 500 bottles a minute and was the largest hard cider producer in the US. We were really impressed, but apparently not so much as an Irish company, which last year (2012) purchased Woodchuck for $305 million!!!. Since our local graduate had paid less than $3 million for it, that was quite a return on his investment. To read our original story—click here. It’s a detailed description of the company before it hit it big. For the details of the sale, click here. You’ll see that although it might sound like he won Powerball, he really didn’t win anything—he earned it. Sure, timing is everything and he was in the right place, but he really risked everything to bring Woodchuck back from the brink, and he succeeded.