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Fall tourism returns; Cold Hollow on track for record year

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 8:01 AM EDT
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Cider sales are booming and records are being broken at Waterbury’s Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

“We love apple cider. We love baking with apples. I mean the whole experience has just been wonderful,” said Barbara Rolen of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma to Vermont is quite the jump, but visitors Rolen and Goli Dunkle haven’t been disappointed.

“The cider mill was moved here because they wanted it to be a major tourist destination,” said Paul Brown, the owner of the cider mill.

Brown isn’t kidding. It has become a Route 100 staple since moving to Waterbury in 1976.

“What you have is the fall foliage, then you add the fall harvest of apples and the busiest tourist highway in the state, it’s like a perfect storm,” said Brown.

So Brown says they have to continue to turn out a quality product.

“Sort of like grapes are to a fine wine, so are apples to a cider,” he said.

They only use apples picked fresh from trees, never ones that have hit the ground. They also try to source all their apples from the Champlain Valley because Brown thinks it’s the best.

“There is something about the soil and the climate up here that creates a Macintosh apple that has a real snap to it,” said Brown.

Brown says despite the pandemic, last fall was a record year. He says he thinks that’s because of local tourism, with Vermonters looking for something to do.

And this year, Brown says they are on course to shatter that record, thanks to lots of people coming back to visit. The mill is turning out 15,000 doughnuts a day and like the foliage, they haven’t even peaked.

But like most businesses, problems out of their control are continuing to impact their ability to get the people what they want.

Brown says they just can’t find enough workers to press all the apples they need to press. To ease the burden on current workers, Cold Hollow won’t be selling wholesale for the time being.

“Our biggest issue, like many other businesses, is staffing. We probably carry a staff of about 40 this time of year. We could use four really good people or eight staff more than what we have, so we really are sort of shoestring staff right now,” said Brown.

Cider will still be sold at the mill and through their catalog.

“I look forward to it every time, and the apple cider doughnuts are wonderful. They do a wonderful job here,” said Gary Borkowski, a tour bus driver.

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