In January 2022, Matt and Kim Vendeville stopped at the Chestnut Hill Welcome Center to talk about their dream of opening a taproom here.
While out for a walk in January 2022, Matt and Kim Vendeville decided on the spur of the moment to stop at the offices of the Chestnut Hill Welcome Center and talk to the staff about their dream of opening a taproom on the Hill where they would serve and produce hard cider.
Now, with the opening of Cider Belly Hard Cider scheduled for next weekend, their dream has become a reality. Starting July 7, Cider Belly, at 8005 Germantown Ave., will be open to the public Friday from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Weather permitting, musician Aaron Quarterman Jr. will perform on the sidewalk outside the taproom on Friday evening.
So, if you’re in town over the Fourth of July, take a stroll to Cider Belly and sample the hard ciders the Vendevilles will have on tap – their original brew, a twice-hopped hard cider, and one that’s infused with locally grown organic cherries. The couple is excited to welcome customers and share with them the experience of drinking and dining in a cozy taproom whose vibe was inspired by their travels in Europe.
“We’re focused on cider, but we want the experience at Cider Belly to outlive the last sip in your glass,” says Matt. The couple has recreated the kind of ambience they experienced at pubs and lodging in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
“At some of our favorite places, especially the Airbnb where we stayed in Edinburgh, we left saying ‘that was so amazing,’” says Kim. “We felt seen and heard. We want to do our best to make people feel that way. We want our customer service to be exceptional.”
With support from the Chestnut Hill Business Association, the Vendevilles secured a lease for a small commercial space in the Lorenzon building at the corner of Germantown and Willow Grove avenues. They weathered renovation delays and the process of securing building permits, while continuing to work full time at their day jobs.
The couple had planned to open the taproom last December, but delays in securing building permits from the city and supply chain issues related to the Covid 19 pandemic postponed the opening.
Ann Nevel, retail advocate for the Chestnut Hill Business District who met with the Vendevilles on that January day last year, says “their perseverance, hard work and good nature have allowed them to weather the obstacles with grace.”
When they met with Nevel and Hillary O’Carroll – then the marketing, events and social media director for the Chestnut Hill Business Association – the Vendevilles were already producing their own hard cider and selling it at the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company and a farmers market in Plymouth Meeting.
The taproom – with a room in the back where the Vendevilles produce their own cider using apples from Beekman Orchards in Boyertown, Pa. – is just 749 square feet. The front windowsill of Cider Belly is lined with pots of basil, mint, and lemon thyme. The walls are decorated with artwork from local thrift stores.
The CHBA invited the couple to sell their hard cider at Chestnut Hill’s Fall and Home & Garden festivals. “Customers were lined up all day to purchase Cider Belly products,” says O’Carroll, the owner of Isabella Sparrow, a European-inspired home goods store on the Hill. “I had a feeling the taproom would be a success,” she says.
Matt and Kim met while in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, married in 2019, and moved the following year to Chestnut Hill. Matt, 30, is originally from a small town near Cleveland, Ohio. Kim, 31, grew up in Latrobe, Pa. Currently they live in Glenside with two rescue dogs, but Cider Belly has been “their second home” since acquiring keys to the space last January, says Matt.
The space was gutted and renovated by the construction team at Bowman Properties, which added steel beams to the floor in the back room to support Cider Belly’s six stainless steel fermentation tanks.
The Vendevilles sought advice from family, friends and members of the Chestnut Hill business community about different aspects of running a business, but they designed the taproom themselves – a process that was brand new for them. They picked a dark blue paint for the walls because they wanted the taproom “to feel warm, inviting, intimate, almost moody,” says Kim. “We think it’s very romantic.”
While selecting furniture and decorative pieces for the taproom, the couple tried as often as possible to shop locally and “intentionally,” with an eye toward infusing Cider Belly with the vibe and history of Chestnut Hill and the surrounding area. They purchased glass carafes from East Falls Glassworks and a long wooden bench from Weavers Way Mercantile in Mt. Airy.
While browsing at Provenance, an architectural salvage warehouse in Philly’s Kensington neighborhood, the Vendevilles found wooden beams once used as joists at Engine 37 on Highland Avenue, a historic 19th-century building that houses the city’s oldest firehouse.
The couple sanded the beams to remove any splinters and finished them with multiple coats of polyurethane, fashioning a set of shelves and a 17-foot-long bar rail that runs along a side wall in the taproom.
Recently a truck from Beekman Orchards pulled up in front of the taproom with 360 gallons of raw cider pressed from their apples. With the help of hoses and a pump that Matt describes as “a beast,” three of the six tanks were filled with the cider. The Vendevilles added a European-made yeast to the tanks, which causes the cider to ferment and produce alcohol.
In addition to hard cider, the Vendevilles plan to serve local wines and a couple of cocktails, including the Lorenzon – their riff on the Negroni – which typically includes gin, sweet vermouth and the apéritif Campari. The couple plans to substitute a local spirit made of blackberries for the Campari and add a sprig of lemon thyme. The menu will feature small plates consisting of smoked trout, charcuterie, cheeses, edible flowers and seasonal vegetables and fruit.
“When I met Matt and Kim, it was clear that they were highly motivated,” says Nevel. “I could see that after all of their meticulous planning, they would have the confidence and courage to close their eyes and dive in.”