By NEIL ZAWICKI
Nick and Lauren Mark are excited. Their Milton neighbors are as well. That’s because the Milton couple are bringing a craft cider house to the red brick building at the intersection of Main Street and Route 7 in the old village district.
Called Arrowhead Lodge, the 680-square-foot space is already under construction inside, and the Marks plan to open in October.
The story of how the cider house plans came to be is very much a story of the emergence of a new scene in Milton.
The Marks moved here from South Florida last year, and brought with them their newfound love of cider making, as well as Nick’s carpentry and draftsman skills, and Lauren’s experience in food and beverage administration. Before long, they made friends with Marty Steinhausen and Keri Stoakes, the owners of the building. The Marks rent a place just across the street from Steinhausen and Stoakes, and as Lauren tells it, “Marty would keep asking when we were going to do something with the empty space below his place.” (Steinhausen and Stoakes live above the future cider house).
“It was just a real natural thing,” said Lauren Mark. “We would walk over with some beers and hang out and before long we came up with these plans.”
Mark added that the whole neighborhood is close-knit, and that she and Nick recognized people were looking for a place they could go where they could identify as a community.
“We’ll be just out in our yard grilling and the neighbors will just walk over with drinks and food,” she said. “It’s really about creating a space for people to go.”
Just a short walk up the street from the future cider house, at Sampler House Bed and Breakfast, owner Deborah Dolby echoes that sentiment. “I think we’re seeing a Milton Renaissance,” she said of the direction the neighborhood is going. “I said that five years ago and I think it’s finally happening.”
To get the word out, The Marks had T-shirts printed with their logo, and they’ve established an Instagram site called arrowhead_lodge_vt, where they share cider making videos and shots of their progress remodeling the site.
Inside, Nick has been busy with remodeling. As luck would have it, there’s an exposed stone wall in the space, and that feature will be the centerpiece behind the bar. As an added bonus, the stone wall brings cool temperatures, which works well with cider— a beverage that does best between 55 and 72 degrees. Outside, the Marks are planning a patio space, complete with a high fence and a sliding gate, where live music and other events will happen.
Back inside, Nick shows off the spots where pendant and track lighting will go, revealing the couple’s vision. They’re planning a stage for open mics and other shows, and Lauren is excited to show the work of local artists on the walls.
While they continue to build their space, the couple are in the process of getting their federal and state licenses for commercial cider manufacturing. In the meantime, they also plan to offer local wines, and some beers on tap. On the food side they’re planning to make pan pizzas and specialty grilled cheese sandwiches. Nick already has one designed.
Beyond the grilled cheese and the cider and the new venue, the Marks say their venture is only phase one of a larger plan to grow their cider business.
“This is our first venture,” said Lauren Mark. “We’re just excited to try it and see what works.”