WATERBURY CENTER – The Cold Hollow Cider Mill, whose cider pitchers are ubiquitous across the region from Costco to corner markets, announced on Friday that it is suspending wholesale cider sales immediately and indefinitely.
The mill is forced to make that decision for the first time in 45 years, company owners Paul and Gayle Brown said in a press release. The reason is the persistent and growing supply chain barriers that have affected many industries since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We can’t get glasses for cider jelly. We can’t get sweatshirts. Now we can’t get apples, ”Paul Brown said in an interview between customers at the mill’s busy retail store on Route 100.
“Extraordinary circumstances that have never existed in the apple business determine the decision,” says the company statement.
“In the current environment, the growers we have had good relationships with for over 40 years simply cannot find workers to pick the apples,” Brown said, explaining that the mill relies on about a dozen major suppliers of apples from New York State where labor for this year’s apple harvest is scarce.
Additionally, the mill is severely understaffed during some of the busiest weeks of the year. Cold Hollow’s retail store and cafe is one of the busiest stops in the area for tourists, especially during the fall foliage season.
And while the company, which normally has 40 employees, has eight key employees down, the tourists have turned up as expected so far, according to Brown. “We get 20 (buses) a day,” he said.
Trying to keep up with the fulfillment of wholesale orders for large supermarket chains like Shaw’s and Hannaford and the Costco warehouse club is adding to the strain on employees – many of whom work six or seven days a week, the Browns said.
The reduction in production should help to take some of the workload off the workforce, they explained.
Paul Brown said the mill will continue to produce fresh cider, cider, and specialty foods for sale at its store, known for its cider, cider donuts, baked goods, and a wide range of Vermont-made products, clothing, and gift items a popular place for visitors and locals alike. “We need as much as possible,” he said. “But it’s brutal to try to get fruit.”
In addition, Cold Hollow will be shifting its efforts to selling online. “Our mail order business grew 60% during COVID,” Brown said, noting that cider was their “No. 1 shipping item. “
And how do you ship cider, which is usually found in grocery store refrigerators? “We’re freezing it into a solid block,” he said.