2 Towns Ciderhouse is putting down roots.
Launched in a Corvallis mini-storage unit in 2010, the fast-growing company has already moved its headquarters three times as it scrambles to keep pace with surging demand for its hard apple cider.
But Lee Larsen, the venture’s 33-year-old CEO, is hoping the latest move will be the last.
Early this year, the company purchased a 36,000-square-foot office and warehouse building in the Corvallis Municipal Airport Industrial Park, where it already had been leasing space in another building for its main production plant. In addition, 2 Towns leased 22 acres of undeveloped land around the new building and took an option on another 20 acres.
“Buying a building gave us this home space that we’re excited about,” Larsen said. “We want to make it a destination location at some point.”
It’s a significant investment for the company, which is spending about $2 million to purchase and renovate the building at 1749 SW Airport Ave.
The acquisition met two immediate needs for 2 Towns: office space for most of the company’s workforce, which now numbers 67 employees, and cold storage for its product, which it has been storing at a facility in Eugene.
But just as important, perhaps, the Airport Industrial Park property provides room for the company to realize its long-term dreams while staying in Corvallis.
Although the details still have to be worked out, those dreams include planting an orchard to grow traditional French and English cider apples, opening a second taproom and creating a family-friendly space for outdoor games and open-air concerts.
“There’s a large community in Southtown and not really enough establishments that have activities for families on a nice, sunny day,” Larsen said.
A 2 Towns taproom with outdoor seating and play areas at the airport, he said, would be a nice complement to what Block 15 Brewing and 4 Spirits Distillery are doing just up the road at the Corvallis Industrial Park.
Most of the company’s administrative employees — including Larsen and co-founder Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, marketing director Scott Bugni and chief financial officer Justin Vail — moved into the new Airport Industrial Park space in March from the old headquarters at the Eastgate Business Center.
2 Towns will hold onto its leased space at Eastgate, where it has a taproom and a small-scale production facility, Larsen said. The company has also hired a full-time cider maker to manage the experimental and specialty cider program housed in the Eastgate building, freeing head cider maker Dave Takush to focus more on the company’s main production operation at the airport.
One factor that may have helped seal the deal for the Airport Industrial Park property was its location in an enterprise zone, which allows the company to apply for property tax breaks based on how much it invests in improvements and how many new jobs it creates.
“When we first met with them, they were actually looking at moving to Eugene,” said Tom Nelson of the Corvallis-Benton County Economic Development Office, which manages the Airport Industrial Park and the county’s enterprise zones.
Nelson’s office helped 2 Towns apply for tax breaks on its production facility at the airport and assisted with the application for a three-year enterprise zone exemption worth an estimated $9,200 a year for the company’s new headquarters building.
“It’s very small compared to what other states and other communities can offer, but it’s something we can do to get them to stay here,” Nelson said.
“It’s not chump change, and it gives them a little bit of relief.”
Initially, 2 Towns started distributing its products in Oregon, then added Washington and California to the mix. Since then it has expanded into Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Illinois and Michigan and is also selling in Japan, but most of its distribution still takes place close to home.
“The majority of our efforts are still on the West Coast and predominantly in Oregon,” Larsen said. “We think the cider market still has a lot of legs, and while we have positioned ourselves well as the No. 1 cider producer in Oregon, we still believe this market has a lot of room to grow.”
2 Towns made about 400,000 gallons of cider last year, according to Nelson, which made it not only the biggest producer in Oregon but the sixth-biggest in the country.
“I don’t think any of us ever really imagined it would get to where it is today,” Larsen said.
But he hastened to add that 2 Towns has no interest in growth for growth’s sake.
“I think we try not to get too caught up in how big can it get. We try to stay focused on the things we think are extremely valuable, which is the quality of our team and the quality of our product,” Larsen said.
“Our mission from Day One was to bring cider back to the people, but it’s not something we’re trying to force — we’re trying to let it grow naturally.”