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.
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!!!!
Watch Me Whip ‘86
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.
Margot & Jason