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Community Highlights: Meet Mary Paulson of Poochie’s Hooch Urban Cidery

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Paulson.

Mary, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I began making hard Cider at home while going through some health issues and just started experimenting. I love to cook, so creating different flavors that blend well together comes easily for me.

I made so much Cider that I would ask friends and neighbors to help drink it. Then I created a monthly, “BACKYARD HAPPY HOOCH HOUR”.

I have been a volunteer and foster for Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue for about 9 years. At the time, I was fostering a dog named Poochie, who was the alpha of the pack. So I started creating a fake pretend business and named the Cider after her, Poochie’s Hooch.

For two years I hosted these backyard parties for the public on my North Park property having free hard Cider and food. Soon people would bring food to share which turned into a potluck style.

People began to try and convince me to take Poochie’s Hooch to a next level and go commercial. In the end, I obviously went for it with certain parameters. One, it had to mean something. I will make and sell hooch, but I wanted 20% of the gross sales to go to Labs and Friends for senior rescues to get what they need to be more adoptable. And two, I wanted to keep the same feeling that you were coming to a backyard party and continuing “Poochie’s Backyard Happy Hooch Hours”. This was and continues to be my business plan.

Like any bar, restaurant, brewery, or winery, the pandemic and Government shutdown destroyed my business. I let go of five of my employees and stayed open for 3 hours every day so current customers could come into the tasting room, fill their growlers, and go home. I essentially did that for two years since March 15, 2020.

Poochie’s is still open sales are only at 39%. Tough stuff.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No. Not at all. My business is highly government-regulated. Federal, State, County, and City all have their hands in my business.

It took months to get through permitting with the city and county. The most frustrating part was when the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.

When I finally opened the business, the Federal Gov shut down for three months unable to come up with a budget. I was unable to get my initial labeling approved by the TTB because all Fed Depts were closed. Therefore, I couldn’t sell my kegs to anyone. Bars or restaurants. Thus pivot #1 began, bringing in customers to the tasting room and offering 28 different flavors of ciders on tap. It took 9 months to get my first labels approved. By then, businesses who expressed interest in my Cider had moved on. As I was working on finding new places to sell Poochie’s Hooch, 3 Months later we were all told to close down due to the covid 19 pandemic. To this day, my tasting room and almost every craft beer and Cider maker still have not gotten back to regular hours of operation, nor can we afford to hire employees. People aren’t going out the way they were. They work from home, they stay in, they order in, and if they do go out, they are home by 10 pm. Bars just started taking kegs of Cider in June 2022. But it’s still a real struggle because the costs have doubled and therefore the pricepoint is higher than they want to pay. We now need to deal with inflated costs of goods and materials. I can afford to make half of what I made 3 years ago.

Currently, I am now working on business pivot #52. Pivoting sometimes weekly has been the only reason my business is still open through the shutdown.

Business is extremely slow.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am the owner, Cider-maker, bartender, seller, distributor, accountant, janitor, builder, repair person, plumber, event coordinator, entertainment, cleaning crew, and any other hat that will fit on my head.

I’m known for being upfront and honest with no tolerance for people with Ego or entitlement issues. My business plan is about creating a community backyard atmosphere. People come to the cidery with the idea of being around good neighbors, and being good neighbors thinking about others before themselves. It works well for those looking to get away from the drama in the nearby world, but still, be able to communicate and have real conversations. So I tend to keep the egos and entitlement people in their own lanes.

Aside from the tough facade, you will find me to be extremely giving. If I can, I will. My talk is my walk. My regular customers know this.

What I would like your readers to know about Poochie’s Hooch hard Cider is first, it is not about me. Never has and never will. It is all about raising money for the dog rescue. I have yet to pay myself. 20% of gross sales continued to go to the dogs even through the shutdowns. I keep my promises. Secondly, Poochie’s Hooch is only 8 grams of sugar per pint. I am Diabetic. Many of my customers have diabetes and are able to safely enjoy drinking hooch without worrying about having an episode. I am very proud of this! I have been asked to make a few sweet ciders. My answer is No. Would you go to a Vegan restaurant and ask them to put one beef or pork entrée on their menu?

I am offering 5 gal and 2.5 gal keg rentals. I’m also working to get kegs of my flagship Cider, Cinville Apple, into bars and BBQ establishments. Cinville Apple pairs incredibly well with pork and smoked meats. It also is a great mixer for 4 new cocktails with whiskey and bourbon. The Skrewed Hooch with Skrewball Whiskey, Apple Jack with Jack Daniel’s, Apple Bomb with Fireball Whiskey, and a Rosey Hooch with Four Roses Bourbon.

What makes you happy?
I love creating new flavors of hard Cider. I am currently up to 82 recipes!!

I would like to get to 100.

I really just want people to enjoy the Cider. It’s really all about the dogs, not judging or creating award-winning ciders. It’s about enjoying what you like, not what someone else might like.

So when a customer picks a Cider and truly enjoys it, that is my happiness.

Pricing:

  • 1/6 keg (40 pints). $150
  • 5 gal promo keg (20 pints) $75
  • In the tasting room $8 pints on tap, $6 1/2 pints
  • To-go cans single 500ml $7, 12oz cans $5
  • 500ml 4packs $24, 12oz 6packs $24

Contact Info:

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