Performing an Encore: Halbrendt Vineyard & Winery

John and Noemi Halbrendt personify the definition of encore careerists. More specifically, they represent the growing ranks of encore entrepreneurs. Recently concluding professional careers, they retired into winemaking. Not that it all started with a plan….

John, with a technical background in fruit production, told of how they purchased the lovely rolling rural land just outside of Gettysburg in 1997. Then in 2002 he thought, “hey, let’s grow grapes.” That, of course, inspired the creative scientist in John “to try my hand at making wine.” Soon, he and Noemi were making small batches and sharing with friends.

Being true friends, these testers of the tipple provided honest feedback, mostly with phrases like “this is good!” Encouraged, John entered wine competitions and “won a few medals.” Being close to retirement, a question began percolating - “can we go commercial?” Researching other small wineries in the area, the Halbrendt’s concluded “maybe it is possible.” Growing grapes evolved into a vineyard.

This is where the true value of their partnership blossomed. John noted, “Noemi has interest and focuses on things that I may not attend to.” Noemi saw a brochure from the SBDC and attended “First Step” and “Business Planning” workshops. Noemi described the workshops as “providing guidance on business planning, regulations and registration, and resources available to the attendees –other wannabes like us.”

Noemi utilized the consulting assistance of the Shippensburg SBDC initially to help with guidance in the management of financial and inventory processes but the main support of the SBDC was in the area of building brand awareness and marketing their wines. Specifically, the SBDC provided information on other wineries in Pennsylvania for benchmarking pur-poses as well as many suggestions for gaining visibility through local, no-cost advertising placement. An SBDC design intern created wine labels and rack cards, and Noemi expressed great appreciation for that assistance.

The Halbrendt Vineyard and Winery opened for business in August 2015. The demand for their product has been strong but, as John notes, “growth is a treadmill we don’t want to get on.” Noemi explained, “The aim is to produce high quality wine but to go slowly, to be sustainable, because we want to handle it. It’s a retirement thing.” Still, the transition from careers to start-up business owners is a big transition and the Halbrendt’s “like to be prepared for the next step.”

No, they did not write the business plan, but they are continuing to avail themselves of SBDC educational opportunities like a recent Quickbooks seminar. Noemi is grateful to the SBDC for “helping her to figure out how to do things.” She is right to call their encore entrepreneurial experience one of “never ending learning” and she expresses her gratitude for the “continuing education the SBDC provides because it is useful and helpful.” And, “because you can quickly email and ask anything.”

The Halbrendts, “retirement, doing something we love!”