Year: 2021

Closing Ancient Fire

We will be closing down Ancient Fire this year. The pandemic ultimately got us. This pandemic has been tough on everyone financially and psychologically, so that’s part of the story, but the timing and sustained challenges have created a much riskier future proposition for us and our fledgling business, more risky than we have the appetite for right now. Ultimately, and we bet you’ve heard this bit already from others, this situation gave us a chance to reflect on our lifestyle and where we wanted to go next. Closing down will be the best way for us to work on solving the challenges this project and the times we are currently living in have created for us.

Here is the short answer to the question: why? We had just celebrated our second birthday as a company when the 2020 pandemic shutdowns arrived here in NH. While we had accomplished a lot by then, our next phase of growth had taken some time to sort out, but in early 2020 we had had some very exciting plans. Then the pandemic set in and the ongoing impacts have sapped our resources and ground down our will. This may be a surprise to some of you, especially if you haven’t been to visit recently, but for others the details (linked/shared below) will make lots of sense based on what we’ve been saying when you’ve asked about how things were going. What would have come next requires compromises, sacrifices and risks that we are just not willing to make.

Thank you very much for supporting us for the last 4+ years as we got this project off the ground and explored the opportunity.

That’s the headline, and the short story. The TL/DR for some of you. Keep reading, especially if you “have questions.”

So what’s next?

We want to celebrate what we have accomplished, and we want you to come celebrate with us. There is a season for everything, and while this announcement and change can certainly feel rotten, we plan to remain cheerful for the opportunity we have had, the awesome team we put together and of course the community and customers the brand has been able to create around us.

THANK YOU!

How about some details? Well, we’ve never done this before so we don’t exactly know every detail, but we have some ideas. Firstly, our production will be ramping down as we work through the ingredients on hand. We have one new honey-wine to release, but we will otherwise be sticking close to our flagship products as that is what the majority of our on-hand materials are generally a fit for. Products will disappear, and many have already seen their last batch come and go. As a fun walk down memory lane we have selected a lineup of four of our draft style meads that were fan favorites from each year we have been open to share as we wind down. We will work backward from 2021, finally arriving back in 2018 a few weeks after we first opened. Tell us which ones!!!!

Mango Tea-some
Watch Me Whip ‘86
Moontower Tea
MUCH Higher Love

We also have put together, and more will be coming, a number of gift packs and multi-bottle packs that make for great gifts or a fun share with friends. And don’t forget the half case and full case discounts that will still be available if you want to “stock up.”

The tap room hours and services will stay as they are into November. As we see how the response impacts our inventory we will make and announce necessary adjustments. Our ultimate goal is to complete table service and retail sales before the middle of December.

So please come celebrate with us. We’ve done something wonderful here at Ancient Fire, and we want to make sure everyone can join in the celebration of it.

Below is our continuation of thanks and gratitude for all the support in doing what we have done, it has been a blast! We also share a little more of the story, including places where we want to again thank everyone for being there for us.

Let’s start back before the pandemic. In the two years we were open prior to the pandemic we had accomplished many of our initial goals, but more importantly had learned a lot about what was possible and what you all wanted from us. We knew what we had launched was a version 1.0 and a significant revision was going to be coming along once we got a foothold. A heartfelt thank you goes out to each one of you for helping us be on this journey. It was always about the community, and that has been the hardest part to see suffer in the last year or so. When the seats at the bar were taken away by the pandemic, the soul of our taproom was badly damaged. Not having been able to get back to that yet has not been without public comment. We continue to hear you.

In late 2019 we had begun putting plans in motion to expand our team and ultimately make a number of significant changes to do some growing. It hadn’t been an easy road to get there, we were behind of our own doing and we knew it wasn’t going to be any easier from then on, but we were optimistic. We had reason to be. The excitement for what we were doing was clearly building. The three months of December 2019 through January/February 2020 were our pre-pandemic best, an incredible run for the winter time here in NH. We could feel the energy. It was motivating and rewarding. Once again, thank you!

Then the pandemic hit, and all of the newer and untapped priorities went out the window because we had to re-focus on a standalone Take Out model, something that wasn’t our “normal” business. So we did. With your help and support we made a surprising go of it early on, something we are forever grateful for. Being frightened at the prospect of not making it all that far into the pandemic was not a great psychological place for us to have been, but you all made that less of a concern. Thank you for supporting us at that moment, we needed it more than you will ever know.

The pandemic pre-empted a huge amount of growth revenue in both 2020 and 2021, and has also bled off all the reserve resources we had available, so very little has changed for us in the 16+ months since it began. Costs are up everywhere, logistics and freight continue to force longer lead times and the inevitable crunches on cash, and together with staffing and scheduling in a tight labor market all of these things are further inhibiting growth at the worst possible time.

Unfortunately we didn’t lose enough money in 2020 to get much taxpayer funded assistance, and much of what we did get was allocated to be paid to staff rather than capital expenses. It made sense for the business model of the moment. What was left was used to cover expenses for PPE and cleaning supplies. The growth we haven’t experienced due to the lack of public events during the pandemic means a huge amount of lost visibility and “new” revenue that would have been the backbone of that next round of growth. Now, we’d have to borrow that money to even begin to try to get back on that plan. Talk about bad timing.

Suffice it to say we’ve learned a lot more during the pandemic, and while we readily admit that we are in fact “still here”, when we take all that we’ve learned collectively we feel that what is needed next is beyond the risks we are willing to take. So, it is time for us to make a graceful exit.

THANK YOU!

Margot & Jason

Why We Try To Make A Difference

Nobody has to explain why they donate money or time to a non-profit, right? It just makes sense, the person is trying to help. What you find when you dig in though is that the reason and the story of why someone does these things is where you find the very special, human moments that make their actions so important. Whatever this story is has spurred action and led to real help being offered. That is powerful, but it isn’t all of it. Their story can also inspire. 

A few months after my cancer treatment in 2003 Margot and I began participating in cancer fundraisers. We wanted to help. We felt lucky that my story had gone as well as it had so far, and with a great prognosis for the future it seemed like a way to take my returning energy and passion and pay it forward. And boy did we get a chance to do that!

Over the next few years we got involved in the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and the Relay For Life. We organized a team of fundraisers, hosted rallys, and made a lot of noise on event days. We stoked the community around these events to crank up their work and also pay the challenge forward. It was great fun. We got involved in planning and day-of-event logistics for some of these events as well. Lots of early mornings emptying trucks of their equipment and supplies. A little less fun (sometimes), but also rewarding. We’ve always been thankful for the opportunity to give back. It seems weird to think that way, but if you are feeding your soul in these moments, that is a benefit worth being thankful for. 

Last year during the pandemic we hosted a mini Relay For Life outdoors at the meadery. This was a great way to Relay safely, but also keep “feet on the track”, one of key symbols from the history of this incredible event.  Along the way we’ve met a lot of other people just like us. Their first hand experience prompted them to step up and make a difference for people they’d likely never meet, and their stories continue to inspire us and others.  Unfortunately we’ve also lost some of these people along the way to cancer, including my Father who used to take lots of late night laps around the track with me at many of our past Relays. Because we also remember when we celebrate and fight back, we have always found ways to make sure we never forget how these people were fighting for something bigger than themselves. We make them legendary when we continue the fight.

Some of the people we’ve met also challenged us to tell our story and inspire others with our efforts. As the years progressed we’ve been recognized as passionate fundraisers and volunteers, energetically fighting back against something that impacts all of us. To date we have directly raised over $150,000 for these cancer focussed organizations. 

We’ve since added other organizations like the New Hampshire Food Bank, Manchester YMCA, the Green & White Mountain Girl Scouts, FIRST, Rockingham Meals on Wheels, the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and the New England Red Cross, raising an additional $20,000 to benefit their missions as well. 

So here we are telling you about our journey in hopes of inspiring you to help us once again. Just like us, you have a story. We’d love for you to add yours to the collection and help us change these kinds of stories forever. 

For the 19th year Margot and I are participating in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. If you would like to make a donation to our team click the link below. All funds go directly to the American Cancer Society. 

https://secure.acsevents.org/site/STR?fr_id=101047&pg=team&team_id=2594116

THANK YOU!

Jason

CAMP AF – MEET YOUR CAMP COUNSELORS – COLLEEN

Name/Age: Colleen M, 31

Role: Camp Counselor, Camp Orange

Bio: Hi, the name is Colleen. I am the newest to AF, when it comes to being behind the bar but, I have been coming here for the past few years with a group of friends who just happen to consistently get recruited by Jay and Margot. I think that’s due to our charming personalities! I am down for any adventure and enjoy my time creating cocktails and being a mom. I am looking forward to having a great summer here at camp AF! Orange you glad I came?

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CAMP AF – MEET YOUR CAMP COUNSELORS – FAITH

Name/Age: Faith J, 36

Role: Camp Counselor, Camp Red

Bio: Yes, my name is Faith and yes, I know the song (I’m a little more Limp Bizkit than George Michael). It’s been fun going from avid customer to employee a little over a year ago. The tap room is always a place full of interesting and hilarious conversations. I love helping new customers experience the variety of products AF has to offer. You can find me in the tap room serving up some shrubs and assisting my husband, Arin (a PE teacher and veteran summer camp counselor) with Camp Olympics. I’m not a huge fan of the sun, but winning IS everything. So join team Red. However, if you choose another team, be ready to Dread the Red.

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CAMP AF – MEET YOUR CAMP COUNSELORS – LISA

Name/Age: Lisa M, 34

Role: Camp Counselor, Camp Green

Bio: Sassing, I mean serving AF customers since 2019. When not at AF I am lifting things up and putting them down or spending time with my pup. If you’ve come in on Friday you know it can get weird, and I’m here to make it weirder. I’ll be here either serving you drinks, instigating weirdness, helping with the MaidMakers series, or helping with all camp activities. Can’t wait to see you all soon!

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CAMP AF – MEET YOUR CAMP COUNSELORS – LAURA

Name/Age: Laura P, 31

Role: Camp Counselor, Camp Red

Bio: I have been hanging out at Ancient Fire since 2018. It started with hanging out for drinks, to celebrating my birthday here, and now working here. I am excited for a summer of activities, and will most likely be in on my days off to help cheer on Team Red!

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CAMP AF – Meet Your Camp Counselors – Melissa

Name/Age: Melissa K, 27

Role: Camp Counselor, Camp Green

Bio: What started as a joke with Jay and Margot about an employee discount has resulted in my working at Ancient Fire for 2 years now. That’s okay though because I enjoy working at Ancient Fire and serving you fine folks almost as much as I enjoy drinking at AF….and that’s saying something. If you’ve been to the taproom on a Thursday or Friday I’ve probably served you a pint or two with a sassy remark. I’m always down for shenanigans as long as they wrap up by 9pm so I can get home to my dog (yes, I will show you dog pics). I’m so excited to lead the green team and instigate the chaos. I am certainly ready for the birds and bees, the apple trees, and a whole lotta foolin’ around!

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CAMP AF – Meet Your Camp Counselors – Krystin

Name/Age: Krystin W, 31

Role: Camp Counselor, Camp Orange

Bio: I’m a long time AF customer, turned meadery assistant. You might have met me in the taproom already, but if not I bet you’ve seen some of my contributions in the new art on the menu boards. I’m a cat mom, illustrator and painter and couldn’t be more excited for all the fun crafty camp things and mead releases we have planned! Can’t wait to see y’all at Camp AF! This summer is gonna be a blast.

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CAMP AF – Meet Your Camp Directors – Margot (Sweet)

Name/Age: Margot P, 48

Nickname: Sweet

Role: Camp Director

Bio: I have been enjoying the tasty beverages made by Ancient Fire’s meadmaker for over 20 years since I was the #1 taste tester when he was home brewing. Since opening Ancient Fire I have been most recognized as the crazy lady who makes the videos with very questionable singing and acting talents. I am so excited for Camp AF as it was the first marketing plan idea I created before we even opened. The idea was inspired by one too many viewings of the classic Bill Murray film “Meatballs”.  And yes, I am indeed ready for the summer, ready for the sunshine and a whole lotta foolin around!

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CAMP AF – Meet Your Camp Directors – Jason (Salty)

Name/Age: Jason P, 48

Nickname: Salty

Role: Camp Director

Bio: As the mead and cider maker for Ancient Fire for the last 3.5 years I’ve had the immense pleasure of sharing my art with our community. I can’t wait to share some of the new meads we are getting ready for summer release!

Are you ready for the summer?!?!?!?!? As one of your Camp Directors for CAMP AF this summer I am here to help you participate in all of your favorite events, get your stamp card updated and otherwise make sure you have fun. I’ll also be making CAMP AF announcements with a bullhorn at the camp lodge (tap room), so make your plans and come join in the summer camp fun!

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