Owner, Blue Bee Cider
1320 Summit Avenue | Richmond
The Neighborhood: Scott’s Addition
By Ja’Nai Tellis Frederick
Courtney Mailey’s story is one of championing her own path, with themes reminiscent of those in “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Her departure from a career in economic development to pursue cider stemmed from a realization that her love for the outdoors was being stifled by a desk job. The nomadic lifestyle she lived as a military child, residing in ten different places since birth, including Germany and Ireland, prepared Courtney to be adaptable and open-minded.
After attending Cornell University’s cider school, Courtney became an apprentice at Albemarle CiderWorks. Taking advantage of the hour-and-a-half Richmond to Charlottesville commute, she sculpted an urban cider business plan. In 2012 after securing funding, her concept came to fruition in Manchester. The desire to craft a unique customer tasting experience in a historic industrial neighborhood led Mailey to Blue Bee Cider’s Scott’s Addition location.
As a self-proclaimed introvert, business leadership and management was not her passion. Yet, the ascent of Richmond’s craft beer and cider scene launched Courtney into the role of delegating and near-constant interaction with employees, vendors, customers, and other local and regional companies. She firmly believes in the value of team collaboration when making cider, in addition to constructing memorable customer experiences through unique, year-round programming. For instance, Blue Bee Cider has hosted a berry infusion invitational with regional cider houses, a dog day event, and a charitable dinner with Chef Brittanny Anderson to raise awareness about forced-labor practices in the hospitality and agriculture industries. For Courtney, her heirloom and rare apple cider brand is not a mass-produced product, but an inclusive boutique experience that embraces storytelling and community engagement.
Who Courtney Would Share a Cider With
“George Washington, a historical connoisseur of cider. We have a letter by him, in which he is obsessing over Hewes crab apple cider during the Revolutionary War…n addition to the bonded laborers [of that era] working on Jefferson’s and Washington’s plantations, and all over the country. I would love to know more about their experiences working with the tools that they had. We are obsessed with being perfectly clean today and everything is stainless steel, but there was no stainless steel back in the day, and everything turned out just fine.“
Courtney’s Entrepreneurial Advice
“I experienced [a disaster] pretty much every day the first year. Start the next day new. You can do it. Don’t be embarrassed by failures because no one really cares except you. Look for solutions.”