December 4, 2021

Cider Mill making changes for this season

Hollenbeck’s opening

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

Matt Hollenbeck, owner of Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil, paints an orange arrow to direct people to a west-side lane for curbside pickup on weekends. The mill will open Saturday with drive-through service.

Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil is set to open Saturday, but the way people will be able to get their cider and doughnuts will change, owner Matt Hollenbeck said Thursday.

Hollenbeck said the store has decided to go with curbside pickup for the entire fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers will not be allowed in the building, and a limited number of staff members will be on hand, he added.

The decision was based on the large crowds Hollenbeck’s has drawn in past seasons, Hollenbeck said. He added it was tough to find alternatives, saying if customers had to be 6 feet apart in the doughnut line, it “would be a quarter of a mile long.”

“It was an extremely disheartening decision to close the building to the customers this year,” Hollenbeck said.

During the week, customers can either order at the store, over the phone or online. On the weekends, Hollenbeck said customers can only order by phone or online.

The plan for curbside pickup will be different on the weekdays and weekends, as well, Hollenbeck said.

For the weekdays, pickup will be at the bakery door in front of the building. Customers will enter from the east and exit from the west, just like Hollenbeck’s traditional entrance and exit, he said.

On the weekends, customers will enter through the west-side trail next to Hollenbeck’s. Cars will go down the trail in a single lane and head behind to the back of the building. As soon as it’s wide enough, it will turn into two lanes.

The two lanes of traffic will then head to the northeast corner of the building, merge into a single lane and travel to the east side of the building. Cars will then go west in the front of the building to the bakery door where they will pick up their orders. The customers are then directed to exit on the west.

Hollenbeck said local sheriff’s deputies will be directing traffic on the weekends to avoid confusion.

“It’s impressive Hollenbeck’s was able to find a plan to open safely in the world we’re living in right now so they can continue to offer their services,” said Meghan Lawton, executive director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They’re the quintessential fall destination in the county. They’re one of the main things people think of during the fall season.”

Cortland native Courtney Little, a mother to two daughters, said Hollenbeck’s curbside pickup idea is great for the community.

“It shows that they are willing to serve their customers in any way they can. I will definitely be utilizing it,” Little said, who now lives in the town of Greene. “Hollenbeck’s is loved by so many people that it can be crowded, but it does not deter me away.”

Hollenbeck said the menu will be short to start out, which will include staples like cider, pie, doughnuts, apples, honey and maple syrup. He added that additional items will be included on the menu once the season slows down.

“It’s a big change and not a decision I took lightly, but we wanted to make things easier for our customers,” Hollenbeck said.

The Cortland Standard will be livestreaming the first cider pressing of the season Saturday morning, and at other times, doughnuts and pies being made, since customers won’t be able tosee it in person this season. All videos will be archived.

Customers can scan QR codes on signs posted at the cider mill with their phones and see videos of the products being made while waiting for orders.

Scanning codes can give customers a chance to win free doughnuts or cider as well, Hollenbeck added.

“It’s different, but we’re trying to give people that experience as much as possible,” he said.

In the 87 years Hollenbeck’s has been open, Hollenbeck said they’re entering a season where the initial plan might not work.

He hopes it can work.

“We’re going to try our hardest to keep the tradition this community and customer base have had in the past with the cider mill,” Hollenbeck said. “I’m fully prepared to go back to the drawing board and start this process over again if the plan I have falls through.”

“I believe that people will still be loyal to the local business,” Little said. “I have been a regular as long as I can remember, and I always will be.”