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Cider maker forced to close due to financial impact of coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 08:42 13 September 2020

Harleston Cider Co, founded by Deb and Ken Woolley, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: Denise Bradley

Harleston Cider Co, founded by Deb and Ken Woolley, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: Denise Bradley

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A cider-making firm is set to close due to financial hardship brought about by the coronavirus crisis.

Family-run Harleston Cider Co, based in Palgrave, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFamily-run Harleston Cider Co, based in Palgrave, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Harleston Cider Co, based in the south Norfolk village of Palgrave, has announced it will cease operations at the end of November.

The family-run venture was established by Ken Woolley and his wife, Deb, in 2010, before officially becoming a full-time business in 2016.

They brought on board their son, Tim, and his partner, Ruth Comer, who helped champion the East Anglian method of cider making which uses cooking apples instead of cider apples.

Family-run Harleston Cider Co, based in Palgrave, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFamily-run Harleston Cider Co, based in Palgrave, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But the sudden impact of Covid-19 and subsequent lack of income left the family with a difficult decision to make.

Miss Comer, who works as a cider maker, said: “At the beginning of this year, Ken and Deb were hoping to work less and it was reaching a crunch point of whether to expand or carry on like a cottage industry.

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“Then Covid completely wiped out our cash flow because we heavily rely on markets, events and selling to pubs, which have obviously been shut for the most part.

“We plodded along with online sales and deliveries every Friday, which gave us a lifeline, but even that began tailing off. Eventually, it seemed the only option was to bring things to an end.”

Having decided to seek pastures new, Miss Comer has no regrets about jumping head first into a unique career.

Family-run Harleston Cider Co, based in Palgrave, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFamily-run Harleston Cider Co, based in Palgrave, is set to cease operations and close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“Tim and I decided four years ago to give up our jobs and give this a go, to try and live that dream of running your own business. It has been tougher than we expected, but it’s been great.

“What we’ve really enjoyed is meeting people, doing tours and showing them how we make ciders. We’ve loved interacting with the public.”

Ahead of moving on, the family is attempting to sell remaining produce and their cider-making equipment, including the all-important cider press.

Family-run Harleston Cider Co is set to cease operations and close. Picture: Lisa North PhotographyFamily-run Harleston Cider Co is set to cease operations and close. Picture: Lisa North Photography

Apples used in Harleston Cider Co products come from within a 10-mile radius, and Miss Comer hopes those who inherit the equipment adopt a similar ethos.

“We have been all about using local produce and seeing what you can make from that,” she added. “We hope to see someone else pick up that baton, whether it is another brewery or someone new to the industry.”


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