The new owners of a Scott’s Addition cidery are preparing to replant their venture in Henrico County.
Blue Bee Cider is set to relocate to 4811 Bethlehem Road, owners Taylor Benson and Mackenzie Smith confirmed last week.
The move will give Blue Bee 4,800 square feet of space just east of Libbie Mill-Midtown near Staples Mill Road. Benson and Smith, a couple and long-time employees of the cidery, bought Blue Bee from founder Courtney Mailey in March for an undisclosed amount.
Late last year Mailey also sold Blue Bee’s Scott’s Addition complex at 1320 Summit Ave. for $2.9 million to a group of unknown buyers. It remains unclear what the future plans are for the multi-building Summit Avenue property, but last year the buyers filed plans that would allow for a variety of uses, including a market, restaurant, bakery and distillery.
Both VCU alums, Benson and Smith have worked at Blue Bee for eight years. Most recently, Smith managed the cidery’s events and Benson was its head cider maker, and said for years they’d wanted to have a cidery of their own.
“We didn’t know what the potential of Blue Bee was as far as ownership. We started the conversation a few years ago and Courtney wasn’t ready for it then,” Benson said. “Last summer was when she sat down with us about what she had planned and how she wanted business to continue on. What we planted as a seed two years ago came to fruition.”
The duo considered staying on Summit Avenue, but it would have required them to house production elsewhere and use the space mostly as a satellite taproom. Smith and Benson said they ultimately decided to look for a new home for Blue Bee.
“We really like the aspect of consumers being able to tour and look at the production side of things and see apples growing outside,” Benson said. “We want to keep all that part of our business and staying (in Scott’s Addition) was going to chop up our business.”
They landed on Bethlehem Road in a flex industrial space that was formerly home to Craven Electrical Services and Fastenal. Thalhimer’s Gregg Beck represented the landlord in lease negotiations.
Smith and Benson are working with Johannas Design Group to design the new facility, which they said is planned to include a bar, multiple lounge areas and a private event space. The building includes a 30-spot parking lot and a front yard facing Bethlehem on which Smith said they’re planning to plant apple trees.
“We’ll be able to plant trees and berry bushes. We won’t be able to have anybody sit on that grassy area because we can’t have alcohol consumption within 100 feet of a residential area,” Smith said. “But the plan, when we open or in the next couple years, is to have a deck on the side of the building for outdoor use.”
“It’s a great location, it’s on the up,” Benson said.
Benson and Smith said in recent weeks they temporarily closed Blue Bee as they prepare for the move, which they hope to have completed in the fall. In the meantime, they said they’ve been running Blue Bee as a pop-up around town as well as doing curbside pickup and delivery.
Benson said they’re ready to see where the next leg of their Blue Bee journey takes them.
“When I started, my job was hand-labeling bottles.…Owning this business was not on my radar eight years ago,” Smith said, laughing. “We’re a strong team. I’m really excited for this new chapter and to run a cidery.”