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Flavors of the Mountains: Deep Mountain Maple

New York City - November 30, 2010

A farmers market with all the stops-- from maple syrup to exotic vegetables. Howard and Stephan Cantor sell their maple products year-round at the market. The toughest part is getting it there-- New York City. For 26 years the couple has been coming all the way from West Glover in the Green Mountains to the Green Market in Union Square. It all started in 1983 when Howard first saw the market; by 1985 they had their own stand.

"It was a moment in time and was part luck part seeing an opportunity and we grabbed it and then we stuck with it," Stephan said.

"It's really grown up and we're proud to be part of that all these years," Howard said.

It's a regional market hoping to preserve farmland around New York City. In order to sell there, vendors have to be within a 200 mile radius of the city, but it wasn't always that way.

"When we first came to the market the market yet hadn't defined a region, so they were welcoming anyone that would help the market grow. They were especially interested in Vermont maple syrup because it has such a mystique," Stephan explained.

Now the couple has been grandfathered into the market. They're the only maple syrup sellers there and the only product from Vermont. The market is the lifeline of their business. For over 20 years they drove down every weekend to New York City and worked their stand. It wasn't until recently they had one of their New York City workers-- Lee-- work a few times a month without them, but even on those weekends they still have to get the Vermont syrup to the Big Apple.

"It's like when your kids leave; you're dreading it, then you say oh, this is great," Howard said.

It takes everything the couple has during the week to prepare for the market on the weekends. Although they wouldn't give us an exact number of gallons they sell, it's enough that they only sell in one store in Vermont.

"There's definitely a lot of syrup in Vermont. You go into a store or restaurant and someone's already selling there. You don't want to compete with your neighbor," Howard said.

It's estimated that over 30,000 people walk through the Union Square Green Market just on Saturday alone. All that foot traffic has led Deep Mountain Maple to sell to over 40 restaurants throughout the city, including one of New York City's busiest bakeries.

"Deep Mountain Maple represents the best of small, quality artisan hands on entrepreneurial," said Maury Rubin, the owner of City Bakery.

City Bakery has been using Deep Mountain Maple since their doors opened in 1990 and haven't looked back since.

"Everything about that I thought was so good in the beginning, I still think is so good," Rubin said.

"There are a lot of chefs in New York that are really strong supporters of the green market. They come here to shop and we've met them over the years and developed relationships with chefs in the city and now the restaurants are a big part of our business," Stephan said.

"There's the personal touch-- there's knowing Howie and Stephan-- I've been up there, seen the trees, helped make it-- it's to have that personal connection to it as a chef or baker-- it's as nice as it gets," Rubin said.

Although they stand alone with the Vermont name at the market, they say it's the quality of their product that makes it sell.

"You know, I think a large part of our success is that we are really careful and do have a good product and people really do know the difference or they don't know why they know it, but they taste something," Howard said.

"It's just this idea that wow, Vermont, it's so exotic. If it comes from Vermont it must be better-- well you know maybe it is-- we're not going to argue with you," Stephan laughed.

A taste of Vermont in the big city.

Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin has made value added agricultural a priority. The Agency of Commerce, the Agency of Agriculture and the University of Vermont plan to work as a team to create more small companies that will create jobs and sell Vermont products around the country.

Gina Bullard - WCAX News

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