HSU alumna brings cider culture to Humboldt

By Lauren Shea
Flapjack Staff

Michelle Cartledge, co-owner of Humboldt Cider Company, makes being a entrepreneur on the surface seem like a piece of cake even though it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Cartledge from Eureka, California leads the Sales and Marketing at Humboldt Cider Company in Eureka and The Local Cider Bar in Arcata.

“When we first started, people’s idea of cider was just Clendenen’s Cider Works in Fortuna, where it was just regular apple cider,” Cartledge said. “It was delicious, but not fermented. People now have an idea of what cider is and it’s nice to be able to introduce that to the community.”

Cartledge’s interest in cider began about 10 years ago, which sparked her interested to start a cider company. She noticed there was a small market for cider in Humboldt County. The sales of cider started to grow exponentially around the country at the time and she knew she wanted to get into that market.

“When you’re younger, people always ask you what you want to do when you grow up,” Cartledge said. “I get nervous because I had no idea. I thought to myself well I’m only 15, am I really supposed to know what I want to do?”

This got her thinking about her options she had. By time she was 16, she thought about going into business and opening a bar.

“I didn’t know what kind, but that was my mentality from then on out that I wanted to open a bar,” Cartledge said.

When looking at colleges she wanted to attend, she wanted to go to school out-of-state, but couldn’t because of the cost. Humboldt State University was popular option for her as it was still in California, but also providing the space away from small town Vista. She studied Business Administration with an emphasis in management.

“I wanted to graduate in four years,” Cartledge said. “ I was taking 19 units and working three jobs. I just wanted to get done with school as soon a possible.”

While she was at HSU, she made her way onto the beer scene tending bar at places like Redwood Curtain Brewing Company and The Local Beer Bar. Through work and friends, she met her husband, Darren Cartledge.

“We were friends at first for about two years before we started dating,” she said. “Neither of us wanted to get married. Then he decided he wanted to get married and proposed.”

The Local Beer Bar opened in March 2012. She worked as the manager and helped with the business side of the bar. Darren Cartledge, Michelle’s husband, have know each other since 2010. He talked about working with Michelle.

“Working with Michelle is awesome, we’ve been working together now for about six years,” Cartledge said. “She deals with the things I’m not good at. We compliment each other well. It’s fantastic for me because areas I’m not strong in, she’s strong in those areas. She puts alerts on my phone to remember and takes care of everything. She’s motivated, smart, pays attention to detail, very driven and focused.”

Cartledge graduated HSU in 2012. She wanted to open a cider bar in Arcata, but it didn’t work out at first. The idea came to them to start a Kickstarter to fund the Humboldt Cider Company Cider Garden.

I’m a very determined, hard working person,” Cartledge said. “If I set my mind to something it’ll happen. I’ve always has a business mindset. We were looking to start  Humboldt Cider Company originally in Arcata. Working with the city was difficult and they didn’t seem like they wanted to be apart of it. We felt like we got shut down before we even started. We then started looking at places in Eureka and someone mention Redwood Acres.”

Looking into Redwood Acres, it started to become easier in the process of starting the company. They came up with the idea to start a Kickstarter campaign to build the tasting room at the production facility on Redwood Acres. The campaign raised $37, 821 from 300 people in 45 days and opened up the tasting room in Feb. 2015.

Cela Wexler, bartender from Arcata, started working at The Local Beer Bar in January 2016. Since then, she has worked at the location on Redwood Acres, The Local Cider Bar in Arcata and will be working at Humboldt Cider Company Tap Room once it opens in Eureka. She talked about working for Cartledge’s company.

“I love working for the company,” Wexler said. “I love the industry. They allow employees have the freedom to be themselves. They put a lot of confidence in the people they hire. It’s really nice and encouraging. They make you feel appreciated and important.”  

This year, they decided to close The Local Beer Bar and turn it into Humboldt Cider Cider Company Tap Room. The location at Redwood Acres serves as the production facility and tasting room and because of this, it’s only open on the weekends. The new location on F St. will be open seven days a week and offers the option of buying bottled cider.

Cartledge has had the dedicated focus for following her dreams and being fast and efficient with the help of friends and the community. She has the ability to co-run two companies all while raising her daughter who she had just last year.

“Apparently we couldn’t help ourselves,” Cartledge said. “It’s fun, once the tasting room is open, we will be set for a little bit, but who knows. We are serial entrepreneurs.”

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