The Cider House Story
We're suckers for a good story. Since we'll be wanting to hear yours, we think it's only fair that you hear ours.
How it all began
Cider House’s roots extend all the way back to California. Back in 2003 Lennie Appelquist began a small website design business called FreeMarket Media Group in Topanga California, a quiet town in the hills outside of Los Angeles. It had started as just something fun to do on days he wasn’t acting as a director’s lead right-hand man on a movie set. We all need a good hobby to entertain us, right? Well, at the time, he had no idea where this hobby would lead him…
He discovered he had a knack for coding and an eye for great design. The turning point may have been when someone asked him, “How much would you charge to make a website for me?” The question stopped him in his tracks. But then excitedly, he began thinking of what his answer would be…
As time went on and his talents and passion for his business blossomed, so did his intention of growing his company. Back then he did it all: he was the designer, coder, writer, and owner. But when Elizabeth came into his life, a lot of things changed (not the least of which was her eventually becoming his wife). After finding, at last, the love of her life, Elizabeth made the hard choice to move away from her hometown of Easthampton, Massachusetts where she lived across the street from her aging parents. They saw her joy and had insisted she follow her happiness and move to California to be with Lennie. So in 2009 she packed up whatever could fit into her little car (including her 2 big dogs), and she drove across country to start a new chapter in her life. She was all in. Together they embraced the idea of expanding FreeMarket Media Group into a Design Agency. And since two heads are better than one, the company took off.
But In the Blink of an Eye, It All Changed
Suddenly in April of 2013, Elizabeth’s mother in Easthampton was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer. Since family is a top priority for both of them, they closed up shop in California and moved to Easthampton and into the house that Elizabeth had grown up in. A few months later her mom passed away. Her mom had been Elizabeth’s dad’s caretaker, so taking care of him became one of their new priorities. But now with no assistant director career to fall back on, it all became more real than ever. It was sink or swim. With their Agency dream still burning in their hearts, they put their thinking caps on and began looking at how to make FreeMarket Media Group work in New England. They knew the first thing they had to do was to change the company name.
What's In a Name
While they were mulling over ideas (yes, that pun IS intentional) for the perfect name of their company, they wanted to choose something that suited them as well as the beautiful area in which they now lived. First of all, cider itself just says “New England”. Secondly, a Cider House can be a magical place of creation. Thirdly, their last name just happened to be Appelquist, and, if that isn’t enough, their home was just a hop, skip and a jump from the wonder of Park Hill Apple Orchard. The name was perfect. From then on everything else just fell into place.
Home Sweet Home
Their next order of business was to find the perfect office space. When they had first arrived in Easthampton, they had been working out of their home. Then they found a small space in Northampton. They outgrew it when parking became an issue. Then one day the space at 28 Northampton Street became available. Elizabeth called to set an appointment to check it out, and they couldn’t wait to get inside. As soon as they walked in they could see and feel the potential simmering under the bland mustard-colored walls and the dark brown ceilings. They looked no further. This was to be Cider House’s new home.
They hired local color specialist Amy Woolf to help discern the best palette for Cider House. They then brought in local master painter Jason Greene and crew to bring the interior of Cider House to life. It flowed easily and seamlessly. They had jumped in feet first and the water was warm.
Expect the Unexpected
One interesting asset that came with the building was a huge marquee sign that stood out in front of the office. It turned out that there was something magical about this sign that they had never anticipated. The first time this became evident was when they were out one night for dinner at a local restaurant. The first thing the waitress said was, “Oh! You’re the people with that great sign!” Neither of them had ever met her before so when she left the table Lennie looked at Elizabeth and said wryly (which has now become a standing joke), “Well, I guess we’re famous!”
The sign has since become synonymous with the name Cider House. Read more about it and take a look at the many messages we’ve put up over the years.
Elizabeth and Lennie soon fell in love with the sweet, art-filled, quaint New England town of Easthampton and became fully invested. They grew a fondness for many of the town’s residents and quickly realized that one of their passions was serving this wonderful community.
Art had always been something they each loved so they made a decision to highlight the work of some of the local artists on a few of the office’s walls. From an artist submission, they found their first artist, Ann Knickerbocker. She came by to see the space and when shown the designated wall space, she said, “Okay, but what about all those other walls?”, pointing to the rest of the front office. Right then and there the Cider House Gallery was born. It’s a tradition now for Cider House to show a new artist every month with his or her Opening at Art Walk.
Find out how you can participate!