Winery & Cidery Success Story Featured on I Created That Podcast

Winery & Cidery Success Story Featured on I Created That Podcast

If it wasn't for the love of traveling and seeking new experiences, getting the idea to start Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery may have just of been a second thought while trying to get started during a pandemic. However, within just a few years, the inevitable became possible after leaving a Winery one day and Alicia Hardman (owner/operator) thought to herself that she too could see herself doing this one day. 

After just being one year into starting this small business selling cider's out of a two car garage in Thedford, Ontario, the young married couple took the leap of faith to leap into building a 10,000 square-foot facility to expand the operations for a new underground wine cellar and more seating options for visitors both indoors and outdoors.

In Episode 83 of the I Created That Podcast, Alicia Hardman had the chance to sit down with Sarah Jansel to chat about the journey of building a successful Winery & Cidery.

Passion for Building a Winery and Cidery

Starting a business in 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic was definitely an interesting time to start a business but never stopped Alicia & Garren Hardman from overcoming this challenge.

The first small batch of hard cider was actually produced in a two-car garage, in December 2019 that didn't go so well after buying a cidermaking handbook off of Amazon. After doing more online research on platforms like YouTube and talking to others in the industry, that is when the second batch got better and it fueled the passion to obtain a license and launch the business. 

Alicia Hardman had quit her job in March as she decided she was going to go all in on starting a Winery & Cidery in Lambton Shores. 

Over the last few years, growing the business to what it is now has been no easy task. By growing a team of more employees and learning from others in the industry, this allowed the bigger vision to become possible faster than expected. 

Related: Lambton Shores Features Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery Owners

Expanding Into a 10,000 Square-foot Facility

In 2015, this was when the property of Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery was purchased that was not the best looking but had enough potential to fix up a house that Alicia & Garren Hardman would then move into. 

At that time, the potential was always top of mind of what could be possible with the unused property space the couple had available.

Visiting local wineries and cideries was always something that has been of interest to both the owners. And after visiting a winery in Chatham, this was when the idea had sparked to start the business.

With the support of Garren Hardman, the unique furniture pieces have been handcrafted that builds on the essence of crafting unique experiences and products for almost anyone to enjoy. 

Alicia Hardman is a big believer of hard work does pay off. If your willing to go the extra mile, believe in yourself, and don't give up, good things will follow. 

By believing failure is not an option, expanding into a bigger facility with 10,000 square-foot became possible.

With more people than ever before visiting Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery in 2021, this was when the owners started to realize that they had to start getting more space to seat more people as there wasn't enough seating available for everybody who wanted to visit. 

At this time, many individuals have already started to fall in love with the ambiance and renowned swing tables that have been showcased all over social media on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. 

shale ridge winery and cidery

How Farming and Winemaking Forms the Foundation of Shale Ridge

Growing up on a fruit farm, Alicia Hardman was exposed to work ethic at a young age while living on a family farm. With the family farm being located not too far away, Shale Ridge has had the pleasure of sourcing the apples, peaches, pears, and all the fruits being used in the ciders from Juicy Fruit Orchards.

With Alicia being a true cider lover, she had soon come to realize that many ciders on the shelf are packed with sugar, artificial flavours, too sweet, and she believed making something better would be possible. 

Having connections to local cideries in the area, the Shale Ridge team was able to begin pressing cider at another cidery to start the process expanding its cidermaking operations.

Taking on an a business journey like this was no easy task when first getting started. With the assistance of a good business plan and starting humbly with a background in farming, the Hardman's were able to provide a proof of concept to banks to help get the support it needed to fuel the success of Shale Ridge.

With the support of friends and family, Alicia Hardman was able to overcome the challenges of being a female in a male dominated industry with limited prior knowledge before getting started.

Still to this day, many people still come to overlook the possibility that Shale Ridge could be a female-owned business started by a young married couple with the success that has come today. 

However, with the passion of being third generation farmers, this did not stop Alicia and Garren Hardman from learning more about winemaking and cidermaking to form the foundation of Shale Ridge wines and ciders.

shale ridge farming and winemaking

The Importance of Having a Online Shop for Shale Ridge's Continued Success

After being in business for almost 1 year, in the midst of a pandemic, the importance of having an online shop became more vital to fueling the successes of a new winery and cidery. During the pandemic, the only way to initate sales was with an online store and this was something not too many wineries and cideries have adapted to at that time. 

In this moment, the couple had known that if they wanted to get their wine and cider direct to the consumer, a website that could sustain its growth of collecting online sales would be of importance. 

This was when Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery had decided to make the transition to a new ecommerce platform, Shopify, to handle the challenges of running an online shop with a retail business. 

Over the past few years, by taking the initiatives to improve the online shopping experience, Shale Ridge has been able to attribute its continued success to the growth of its online shop which allows for a biweekly local alcohol delivery of wine and cider to neighbourhoods in the nearby community. 

Even after the pandemic, Shale Ridge has continued to stay consistent with its local delivery initiatives while offering a fine selection of handcrafted wines and ciders made here in Ontario. 

Along with being able to offer Ontario-wide shipping, this has allowed Shale Ridge to continue to deliver its products to people all across the province. 

With an online shop, this allows anyone seeking a premium Ontario-made wine or cider drink to order this online without having to make the trip each time to visit the Shale Ridge tasting room.

In 2023, Shale Ridge now has 4 sales channels; online, instore, local restaurants and markets, and now even the LCBO to get products to-go in your local city.

shale ridge farm to glass

Celebrating Mother’s Day at Shale Ridge’s Annual Market!

Celebrating Mother’s Day at Shale Ridge’s Annual Market!

This year’s event was a memorable day filled with unique local artisan vendors, delightful charcuterie cups, our special "Momosa" signature drink, and beautifully curated Mother’s Day gift baskets.
Read more
Debunking the Myth: Cork vs. Screw Cap Wine Bottles

Debunking the Myth: Cork vs. Screw Cap Wine Bottles

Let's take a closer look at the cork vs. screw cap debate and uncover the truth behind these closures.
Read more
Sips & Strollers: A Mom's Day Out at Shale Ridge Estate Winery

Sips & Strollers: A Mom's Day Out at Shale Ridge Estate Winery

At Shale Ridge Estate Winery, a sunny Thursday afternoon brought something special: the very first "Sips and Strollers" event. Moms from all around gathered for a day of connection, relaxation, and charity.
Read more