Philly food and drink scene

Women are taking control at Original 13 Ciderworks in Kensington

The cidery and tavern is making changes as it works to bounce back from the pandemic.

Original 13 general manager Maggie McHale (left) and assistant general manager Petra Manchina (right)

Original 13 general manager Maggie McHale (left) and assistant general manager Petra Manchina (right)

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
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Original 13 Ciderworks in Kensington is now rocking a leadership team made up predominantly of women.

At the beginning of the year, Maggie McHale became the new general manager. She immediately promoted staffer Petra Manchina to be assistant GM. And one of two brewers at the cidery and tavern is a woman. That means three-quarters of the full-time staff is now female.

It’s a challenging time to take over a bar business, McHale said. With the pandemic slowdown, the job is unlike anything she’s ever done before.

“Right after the new year, I came in and it was all of a sudden my show to run,” said McHale, who’s 26. “It was crazy and overwhelming.”

In the brewing business overall, women make up less than a third of all workers, and even fewer hold leadership roles. Broken out from beer, the subset of cider is somewhat less stark. Women are more likely to serve as orchardists, cider makers and agricultural researchers, and they account for about half of cider drinkers, compared to a third of craft beer drinkers.

In Olde Kensington, Original 13 is still owned by a man, John Kowchak. But the all-women team is making their presence known.

McHale and Manchina, also 26, have changed up the food menu, brought back cider and whiskey flights, added (safely spaced) tables to the brewing area, and started planning small in-person events. The semi-dry ciders are still all made on-site, and there are 100-plus board games you can play in the tasting room as you sip them.

Original 13 Ciderworks assistant GM Petra Manchina (right) and general manager Maggie McHale (left)

Original 13 Ciderworks assistant GM Petra Manchina (right) and general manager Maggie McHale (left)

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

“We’re women leading the cidery,” Manchina said. “My personal goal is to go ahead and make it very obvious and well-known that women can run whatever establishment they want in the service industry.”

When the ciderworks first opened in October 2017, it was the first in the city. Now there are at least two others brewing hard apple drinks in Philadelphia, and several more around the region.

The neighborhood surrounding the cidery has also changed. When it started serving customers on North American near Oxford Street, the area was highly industrial. The staff has watched the corridor change as it filled in with residential and commercial projects.

“We’ve really helped establish this neighborhood as a place to hang out,” McHale said. “Especially now with new development and a lot of construction, people are heading up this way.”

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Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Forced to furlough 13 staffers during the pandemic, the business was kept alive by can sales. Selling to-go cider helped “make sure we keep the lights on,” Manchina said.

In January, the former general manager left to open his own spot in the suburbs. McHale took the gig and promoted Manchina. On brand for most women, the two are multitasking — they’re also acting as bartenders until they can afford to hire back more staff.

They’re also amping up social media. The bar’s Instagram, previously a bit of a ghost town, now showcases daily food and drink specials.

Business is nothing like it was before, McHale said, “but we’re getting busier, luckily, with the weather turning. Some of our best sales days have been the last couple weekends.”

McHale and Manchina are psyched about the new leadership team. They’re in agreement: If women are drinking cider, women should be brewing and selling it. They also think they can get everyone to drink their cider.

“We’re definitely owning the fact that we’re a women-led business, and cider typically leans more feminine,” McHale said. “But we’re also trying to say, cider is for everyone.”

Original 13's fermentation, carbonation, and bright tanks

Original 13's fermentation, carbonation, and bright tanks

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

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