CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - After spending 20 years off the Island, longtime friends James Van Toever and Robert van Waarden have returned to P.E.I. as business partners and are hoping to have their new craft apple cider in bars by Christmas.
“We’ve known each other since diapers,” said Van Toever, co-owner of Red Island Cider.
On Thursday, Red Island Cider was one of 10 Island startup companies to receive a $25,000 grant from the province’s Ignition Fund. The funding announcement was made at Charlottetown’s Startup Zone.
“This was a project that really got going seriously in January of this year. And, fast forward to today, I don’t think either one of us could have predicted things going this well,” said Van Toever, who added that the funding was going to help with equipment purchases.
Chris Palmer, minister of economic development and tourism, explained that 64 applications were received for the $250,000 in total funding available under the competition. He said the 10 successful companies were chosen because of how their strong business plans aligned with the province’s goals to grow the economy and create new jobs.
Van Toever, 36, a physiotherapist originally from Brookvale, has lived in the U.S. and across Canada, while van Waarden, 35, a professional photographer from down the road in New Glasgow, has lived in places like Montreal, Banff and Europe.
Van Waarden was back on the Island speaking with Van Toever’s mother one day, and she realized that the friends were both interested in starting an apple cidery.
“A quick phone call, and here we are, eight months later,” said Van Toever, who only moved back to P.E.I. a couple of weeks ago.
They’re setting up a temporary facility in Hartsville, and the goal is to build a permanent facility in New Glasgow that will serve as a cidery as well as a place that people can stop by, sit on a patio or in an apple orchard, and have a glass of cider, said Van Toever.
The products they’re hoping to have in bars as well as farmer’s markets by Christmas is a sweet and a dry cider.
Also receiving $25,000 was Jordan Stetson, owner and founder of New World Foeders. Stetson, a carpenter by trade, has been working out of a shop in Freetown for the past six months making foeders, modern and larger wooden barrels for craft beer, wine and distilling. He explained the smallest one he would make holds 500 to 600 litres (and up to 3,000 to 4,000 litres).
“It’s essentially the traditional way of doing it,” he said. “It’s quite an intricate thing to build.”
Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown is currently using one of the foeders.
The other startup companies to receive funding on Thursday were Broek Innovations Company Ltd., Gallant’s Seafood Market, Maritime Marzipan Confectionary, RecordFund Inc., Safety Pro Incorporated, ShopLaw, Stemble Learning and Westisle Special Projects.
The province also announced it was providing $25,000 each to RDÉE, the province’s francophone economic development council as well as to Food Island Partnership for startup competitions.