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Anna (Dunlap) and Dominic O’Reilly (both ’12)
Anna (Dunlap) and Dominic O’Reilly (both ’12)

The Chamber of Commerce in Santa Paula, California, has named Anna’s Cider — a local cidery founded by alumni entrepreneurs Anna (Dunlap) and Dominic O’Reilly (both ’12) — as its 2022 Business of the Year. The honor marks the culmination of a heroic five-year effort, replete with setbacks and triumphs, for this family-owned business.

Although its background is in wine — with Mr. O’Reilly serving as the head winemaker at Topa Mountain Winery in neighboring Ojai — the couple expanded into the hard-cider business about five years ago. “We released our first batch of cider at the Core Pour Cider Festival in our hometown of Santa Paula in November of 2017,” says Mrs. O’Reilly. “We were blown away by its reception! Our booth was packed all day with people coming back for seconds and thirds, and asking where they could buy it. After that event, with our confidence boosted more than ever, we immediately made a second batch and started selling it to local restaurants.”

Then the unimaginable happened. “The Thomas Fire swept through our property one month later,” Mrs. O’Reilly continues. “We lost our facility, all our equipment, and all our inventory.”

Unwilling to abandon their project, the O’Reillys resolutely began again. “With help from a Kickstarter campaign and local support, we rebuilt and were back in business by mid-2018, producing with more energy than ever.”

As demand grew, so did the need to expand — and add a tasting room. The O’Reillys acquired a building on Santa Paula’s historic Main Street and set about renovating it themselves. They had plans to open their new location in early 2020, when the unimaginable happened again: The COVID-19 pandemic began. “We weren’t going to let a pandemic stop us any more than we let the Thomas Fire stop us,” says Mrs. O’Reilly. “Against all odds, we opened our tasting room in August of 2020, just a few months behind schedule.”

The project has been demanding, and the O’Reillys credit their alma mater with helping to form the canny persistence that has sustained their business these last five years. “I think TAC definitely made us more disciplined,” says Mrs. O’Reilly. “It's a rigorous program and requires a lot of highly focused work — as does running a small business.”

Their alma mater has also helped them in some of the more practical matter of running a business. “Once we grew the business to the point of hiring employees, we found ourselves reflecting a lot on some of the Senior Seminar readings — Rerum Novarum especially — about labor, just wages, and an employer’s duties to his employees,” Mrs. O’Reilly reflects. “We've also found TAC to be a great hiring pool — I think about three-quarters of our staff are either current students or alumni!”

Congratulations to Anna’s Cider and the O’Reillys!