By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 02, 2023 at 3:03 PM

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More than three years after acquiring its East Side space, Pomona Cider Company is finally ready to swing open its doors.


The new cidery – which would’ve been the city’s first had it opened on schedule – hosts a public soft opening on Saturday, March 4, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. at 2163 N. Farwell Ave. An official grand opening is slated for April 6.

Originally planned as a second tasting room for Door County’s Island Orchard Cider in Ellison Bay, the building, which overlooks the Oak Leaf Trail, was purchased in January 2020.

We got a walkthrough at the time and it appeared an opening would be quick. However, COVID changed those plans, as did a number of other delays, including contractor and supply chain issues.


Then, when work on the space was back on track, state regulations that prohibit a cidery – which operates under winery rules – from possessing two retail permits.

Thus, Pomona is now owned by Tom Gabert – who was initially going to be the venue’s general manager – and Matthew Purman, son of Island Orchard owners Bob and Yannique Purman.

"I was general manager with the hope of eventually becoming an owner," says Gabert. "It just kind of sped that process up a little bit."

Tom Gabert and a big ol' bottle of cider.

The production facility has been licensed and up and running for a few months already, says Gabert, who tapped Shawn O'Halloran to run it.

"I moved from Minneapolis," says O'Halloran. "I worked at a Sociable Cider Works ... it's a pretty large scale cidery and much different doing the small batch and like farm model here."

O'Halloran initially came to Wisconsin to work at Island Orchard and then recently relocated to Milwaukee to work at Pomona.

"We are thrilled to finally be able to share our ciders with the Milwaukee community. We also offer a charming food menu served nightly curated by the chefs of Strega that will pair with our wide selection of artisan ciders," said Gabert.


"Our goal is to provide our customers with unique and delicious ciders that reflect the hard work and dedication that goes into producing them."

Pomona plans to maintain “a close collaborative relationship” with Island Orchard, which was named for Island Orchard’s 40-acre Washington Island orchard, planted in 2006. The property has 3,000 American and European apple and pear cultivars.

Pomona will produce its dry ciders on-site in small batches using juice from that orchard. It will also sell packaged Island Orchard ciders.

Island Orchard will reciprocate by offering Pomona ciders on tap.

To adhere to state law, the products will between the companies via a separate distributor.

The 2,100-square-foot tasting tasting room has bar seating, as well as seating along a window bar that offers views over the production area. There are also eight tables in the space.


Most everything, from the furniture to the light fixtures, has been made in Milwaukee.

Construction on a patio out back is expected to begin this summer and be ready for next summer.

In the far southwest corner is a little nook space with a painted Pomona logo and in the northwest corner is the kitchen.


Strega’s Samantha Sandrin and Katie Gabert – Tom’s sister – have created a menu for the tasting room, which will also serve Rocket Baby products.

"They've crafted a really awesome menu," says Gabert. "Obviously food's very important, but it's not a main focus. We didn't want to go over the top with it, but they've created some really nice small dishes and snacks that pair really well with the cider."


Although it will soft open with some abbreviated hours, Gabert expects Pomona's regular hours – Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. – to kick in by the April 6 grand open.

The kitchen will likely have abbreviated hours.

"That is a format we're trying to figure out," he says. "We'll probably start it a little late and end it a little early, but certain menu items will probably be available, like snack mixes, all hours."

Gabert said that Pomona has been an idea in development since 2016. Cache Cider became Milwaukee’s first cidery when it opened in spring 2020. Molson Coors also produces all its ciders in Milwaukee at the 10th Street Brewery.

“The soft opening of Pomona Cider Company is just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting journey for the company and its customers,” wrote Gabert in a release in advance of the soft opening.

“The company looks forward to welcoming cider enthusiasts to its new tasting room and sharing its passion for cider.”


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.