By Elizabeth Sear
There is a marquee sign on Northampton Street in Easthampton that has become quite the local sensation. This old-fashioned sign has captured the attention of many in the Hampshire county community with its ever-spinning inspirational quotes. It is owned by Cider House Media, a marketing company owned by Lennie and Elizabeth Appelquist, who started their business after moving to Easthampton from Los Angeles.
“In 2013 my wife and I ended up moving back here, she grew up here in Easthampton,” Lennie said. His original background was in the film industry, but his hobby in web design eventually grew into his own business. “We still had a lot of customers that we took with us, so that’s what we did. We officially launched Cider House here.
Cider House Media provides a wide range of marketing services, from branding, website building and search engine optimization to odd jobs like correcting email form. a website. No matter how big the task, he said, the company is focused on delivering results for all client needs.
“Basically, what we really like to do is work with small businesses that matter to their communities, who may not have the resources to do all the marketing, or the technical expertise to do the website and handle the marketing…but also can’t necessarily afford a really big company from a big city to take care of all of that,” Appelquist said.
The majority of Cider House Media’s clients are local businesses in the Western Mass area. Its focus has been websites for small businesses that reach their local markets, Appelquist said.
“Our founding belief, our belief that drives us, is that local businesses and small businesses in our cities, not just here in Western Mass. but everywhere, are truly the economic engines of our communities,” he explained. . “They are also a kind of life blood. They’re what make our communities really great, small businesses, and we really love working with them.
“Basically, what we really like to do is work with small businesses that matter to their communities, who may not have the resources to do all the marketing, or the technical expertise to do the website and handle the marketing…but also can’t necessarily afford a really big company from a big city to take care of all that.
A strong online presence has become a growing need for small businesses as they acclimate to consumer demands on the Internet. Shortened attention spans coupled with the massive shift to remote working caused by the pandemic have amplified the need for companies to have fast and efficient websites, Appelquist said.
“We were having a debate this morning about website load times,” he told BusinessWest. “The pandemic has brought a lot of things to light, and people have really high expectations of what they’re getting online, so what they’re looking for trend-wise is a website that loads really fast. They also want a website that provides clear information upfront without them having to think too much or dig too deep.
He explained how savvy consumers not only seek deliverability, but also demand accurate information. Cider House Media helps clients take control of their online presence, which includes ensuring the consistency of all representative information found on the web.
“When someone is looking for a service, a product, a restaurant’s opening hours, the site has to load quickly, and then there has to be a very clear path to the information they’re looking for,” said Appelquist. “A trend we see with many small businesses is to ensure they take control of all the places people can interact… their data becomes their brand, and therefore every touchpoint on the web, on other third party websites, on their website, when someone answers the phone in the office, everything becomes representative of what their brand is, if it’s inconsistent, it just says inconsistency to the consumer.
Cider House Media has felt the severe impact of the pandemic on small businesses, experiencing customer cancellations and a drop in business at the start of 2020. It had just launched its largest-ever online advertising campaign, and a market uncertainty led the Appelquists to wonder if they would survive. However, after a few months, they started to see an interesting change in their business.
“All of a sudden, every business that was trying to find a way to reach their customers realized that they had to be online and they had to understand what they were doing. They had to understand how marketing works in online, how their social media worked and how the ads worked,” said Lennie Appelquist.
This resulted in a transition from their initial decline to a sudden flood of business. It’s been almost two years since staff at Cider House Media have been able to meet in the office, but business has essentially stabilized.
“All of a sudden, every business that was trying to find a way to reach their customers realized that they had to be online and they had to understand what they were doing. They had to understand how marketing works in online, how their social networks worked and how the ads worked.
Despite this, the pandemic has caused them to rework their philosophy and really think about how to help their clients leverage the internet and people’s habits to do business while facing the hurdle of not be able to use a physical retail space. “The market has changed with the world, so we had to be nimble and change some of our approach as well.”
Cider House Media’s increased business during the pandemic hasn’t stopped with its growing customer base. “One thing that’s happened during the pandemic is an interesting market that we’ve entered — the community-access television market,” Appelquist said. Since the start of the pandemic, Cider House Media has launched five and launched four additional websites for public access television.
“It’s been a really great education, and as one of the things we really love is working with businesses, nonprofits, grassroots organizations, arts organizations, touchpoints in our community that make a difference…it was our first experience of building something that was a true resource of journalistic information.Things like that have been great.
Cider House Media has been involved in several community driven projects, perhaps the most notable and high profile being One Ferry Project, a mill revitalization project in Easthampton.
“Locally, we launched a new brand and website for the One Ferry project this year,” said Appelquist. “We did the branding, the logo, the marketing tools, all the signage for the building, the website. The process for potential tenants or buyers of space, condos, rental units, office space, we have created a mechanism for them to learn about the website and reach whoever they need to reach.
Cider House Media has been committed to their community since the couple moved into their office in Easthampton. Lennie and Elizabeth are both members of the Cottage Street Cultural District Committee, and Elizabeth is a board member of the River Valley Co-op, as well as chair of the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton. In addition, they have regularly participated in the Art Walk organized by Easthampton City Arts, a program which offers art exhibitions and creative performances open to the public.
“When we opened our office in Easthampton we kind of wanted to be part of the community and meet people, so we actually asked the director of Easthampton City Arts if we could be part of the Art Walk and ask for an artist to exhibit their work and have people, and they said, ‘absolutely, yes,’” Lennie said. “Almost from the time we opened our office in Easthampton, we were a destination on the Art Walk and working with them.”
Lennie and Elizabeth opened an art gallery on Cottage Street in Easthampton as their second venture in 2018, helping to celebrate the work of local artists by organizing local arts events, spoken word and poetry. The gallery has closed due to the pandemic, but Cider House Media still remains committed to supporting the arts in the county of Hampshire.
“One of the things about Easthampton, but also Pioneer Valley and Western Massachusetts, that I find so amazing is how integral the arts are,” Lennie said. “Art, like commerce, is really important, and I think art and culture, and the ability to interact with art and meet the artist, and to interact and find the people that you cross paths with at these types of events…it’s your whole community.”
word on the street
Lennie Appelquist spoke about the charm that walkable towns in Hampshire county have and how little details like the sign above the marquee sign or the local art exhibits create an absolutely unique environment. He noted the many opportunities for networking, partnerships and synergies, describing a local butcher attending an evening with food at the local brewery. Above all, he highlighted the community nature of the area and how rewarding it is to work with businesses in the county.
“All of these opportunities that you have to be part of a community, to create a community, to interact with the community, are really, really important,” he said. “So I think that’s the part we love the most – helping a lot of our clients express what excites them and drives them to do their business, and why they go about doing it every day.”