SHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Inc. magazine recently its annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, and Clarion County’s own Deer Creek Winery was named in its rankings.
(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)
The Inc. 5000 list is unique in that it looks specifically at the most successful companies within one particular segment of the American economy: independent small businesses. Many well-known national companies, from Microsoft and Intuit to Under Armour and Patagonia, gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000.
Deer Creek Winery was ranked No. 4,686 on the most recent list, with three-year revenue growth of 65 percent.
When asked what making the list meant to her as the owner of Deer Creek Winery, Rhonda Brooks said: “The recognition for (the company’s) efforts were a great milestone.”
Rhonda and her husband, Denny, opened Deer Creek Winery, located on a 100-acre farm just outside Shippenville, on September 9, 2009.
According to Brooks, they were already growing raspberries on the land but were having some trouble getting them to market in good condition because of her aversion to using any sprays or chemicals. With lots of extra berries available, they tried making some wine and discovered how much they enjoyed it.
Then, shortly after her husband was laid off from his job in late 2008, he came up with a business plan to turn their little experiment with wine-making into a real business opportunity.
They found financial backing, designed their building, and created a name for both the business and the wines they would like to market. They also partnered with an experienced winemaker from Erie to learn the proper way to make wine, as well as to learn more about what wines every winery should have.
In just under a year later, they were open for business.
Following their initial opening, they found that their wines seemed to be just what the local population was looking for. They immediately began opening satellite locations in local malls, which propelled them even further, as more and different malls began to seek them out.
They continued to expand over the years, and another big moment came with the expansion and addition of The Inn at Deer Creek four years ago. According to Brooks, it was a huge step for the business, but with the help of some great staff, they have been able to create a getaway that their customers appreciate.
In September 2019, Deer Creek Winery marked their ten year anniversary with a special event that included everything from live music, games, and trivia, to contests, wagon rides, food, and more.
In the last few years, Deer Creek has also expanded on food options at the winery. They didn’t originally offer meals, but that began to change in 2012, when a staff member, who had been a chef, began bringing in some food on nights when they had live music. Within the next year, they began expanding their kitchen and looking for staff to increase the food options they could offer.
Brooks said she credits their continued growth over the years to a combination of factors.
“We move fast and make the best decisions with the information at hand whether it is old or new ideas,” Brooks said. “We didn’t box ourselves in.”
The one thing that Rhonda thinks sets Deer Creek Winery apart is “customer service with a great team who is the face to everyone who comes to any of our locations.”
Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000. The top 500 companies are also being featured in the September issue of Inc. 5000.