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Winery Says Salud to a Living Wage
Published Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Winery co-owners Bob Manley, Chuck Lawrence, and Ken Hardcastle.Courtesy photo.

Hermit Woods Winery started as a home-based hobby and quickly grew into a thriving winery, producing 2,500 cases of wine annually from locally sourced fruit, honey and flowers. It made headlines this past summer, not for the awards its wines have won, but for its announcement it was instituting a 3.5 percent surcharge (or 87 cents on a $25 purchase) on all sales so it could pay employees a living wage of $15 an hour, up from the $12 an hour some made.

“We started this business because we’re passionate about we do; it’s never been about money,” says co-owner Bob Manley. “We pump as much as we can back into the business so we can continue to grow.” Manley is “not sure if $15 is enough, [but] it’s a heck of a lot closer than $12.”

When Hermit Woods announced the living wage raise, internet comment sections lit up. While the winery welcomes feedback, Manley says they feel no need to respond to inflammatory comments, adding they’ve had respectful conversations with dissenters who’ve contacted them directly via email, phone or stopping in the winery.

“Not only would randomly raising prices have been poor business practice, it wouldn’t have been upfront or honest,” says Manley of the surcharge. “We wanted to be transparent about the real costs of running a business while also directly putting the idea of a living wage out there.”
Hermit Woods, which has grown sales 10 to 20 percent annually since 2013, produces 40 wines, including its Petite Blue and Heirloom Crabapple, which are the most popular.

Both of these wines, among several other, have received awards, including a silver medal for its Heirloom Crabapple at the Big E Wine Competition in Massachusetts and a bronze medal for its Petite Blue at the Drink Outside the Grape Competition in Virginia.

In the last year, revenue has grown 15 percent, and a wine club that started last November now has 260 members. The business was started by Manley with Ken Hardcastle and Chuck Lawrence in Sanbornton. The trio first planted a vineyard in Manley’s backyard and transformed his master bedroom into a
tasting room.

The winery now has two full-time and five part-time workers and raised their hourly pay from $10 to $12 last year. Manley says the raises were instituted as much to support their workers as it was to retain them.

To allow for continued growth, the winery is expanding its current location. Manley says several structural changes are planned, including solar panels, a deli area and expanded deck and patio seating. He also plans to open a brewery on a different site. The trio have been working with Christopher P. Williams Architects in Meredith to plan the project, which he expects to be completed by fall 2017.

Visit hermitwoods.com for more information.

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