Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 28 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Misty Murphy Orpin, marketing and events director for downtown Springdale-based cidery Black Apple Crossing, has been involved with the business for nearly three years while working in economic development and communications roles.
Orpin’s husband, Leo, his best friend Trey Holt and John Handley co-founded Black Apple Crossing in 2014. They opened the taproom in July 2015 inside a 7,000-square-foot building at 321 E. Emma Ave., which is also where the hard apple cider is made. Production capacity rose 46.2% to 95,000 gallons in 2019, from the previous year.
Orpin, 40, was regional trails coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas Council when she was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2014. She started working full time for Black Apple Crossing this past September after working for more than a year as the director of communications and strategic planning in the Office of Economic Development at the University of Arkansas. Stacy Leeds, vice chancellor for economic development, hired Orpin while Leeds was serving in the role on an interim basis. Orpin previously was executive director for nonprofit Downtown Springdale Alliance for about two years.
Over the past few years, she found herself spending more and more time after work helping at Black Apple Crossing.
“This would be kind of my night and weekend job,” Orpin said. “Then it grew to be too big to actually be a hobby. Especially with kids, it just became too much to split up. All the pieces of the pie didn’t fit anymore, and so I decided to just make the jump and do this full time.”
She works to promote the brand and bring people and events to the taproom nightly, including comedy acts on Saturdays, live music on Fridays and trivia on Mondays.
“I focus mostly on this space, so activating this space, marketing our overall brand, but primarily getting people into the taproom, getting people to try our cider, and really trying to expand our role in the community, making sure that we are a good partner and that we have the programming that people really want in Northwest Arkansas,” Orpin said. “We have a really unique demographic, for sure. We don’t draw the typical bar crowd. We have an interesting group of followers.”
The taproom also has hosted drink and paint classes and a ’90s dance party, and soon, a former Amazeum employee will lead inventive workshops there.
“We really try to be a community space for people to come in and do unique things,” Orpin said. “It’s not just you come in and you drink or you come in and drink and watch football. We really want people to think about the space as a community hub and be engaged and do things.”
She explained that the company’s cider is somewhere between a beer and a wine in how it’s made. Earlier this year, state legislators approved a law to allow the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to issue permits specifically for making hard cider. As the only cidery in the state, Black Apple Crossing previously was operating with brewery and winery permits.
The cidery distributes its cider to hundreds of bars and restaurants across the state. It recently became available in central Arkansas and Hot Springs and will soon be available in Russellville. Area retailers, including Walmart, sell Black Apple Crossing’s Hibiscus cider in cans. The taproom in Springdale has eight flavors of hard apple cider on tap and soon plans to expand to 12 flavors.
“We are growing beyond what we anticipated,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with expanding into cans. We just started canning and then being able to launch in different parts of the state.”
It looks to continue to increase distribution of its ciders but doesn’t have plans to open more taprooms. The cidery has about 12 employees, including five part-time bar staff. Orpin declined to discuss revenue.
Over the next three to five years, she hopes to contribute to the growth of Black Apple Crossing in a meaningful way while staying true to the company’s values.
Orpin, who is a Hector native, has two boys. She serves on the board of BikeNWA and enjoys bike riding, reading and history.