Chuck Gower always brought his wife, Diana Gower, to Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil on the first day of the season, said their granddaughter, Tabitha Marshall.
When Chuck Gower died three years ago, Marshall took over the tradition and Saturday found them in their car outside the cider mill.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the public were not allowed into the building, according to the store’s website. Instead, drivers entered a side path on the west side of the building and looped around clockwise, pulling up to the parking lot in front.
There, workers took orders — which were all required to be completed online at least a day earlier — and brought food to the cars.
The menu was shortened, at least for the time being. On Saturday, this consisted of pies, doughnuts, cider, apples, honey and maple syrup.
Cortland County Sheriff’s officers directed traffic on Route 392.
The wait was 40 minutes for Marshall and her grandmother to get doughnuts, cider and apples.
“It took a little bit longer than we’re used to, but we gotta do what we got to do,” Marshall said.
Barbara McAllister of Harford said she arrived at Hollenbeck’s 20 minutes before its 9 a.m. opening as she expected a long line of cars.
She was correct in that, with cars stretching down the westbound side of Route 392.
With her planning, she didn’t have to wait very long. “It’s going pretty smoothly so far,” she said, as she picked up a pie, cider and doughnuts.
Even with a different setup, she said she will definitely return later in the season.
“I think for people in the community, this is a really big part of the fall season to come here and enjoy what they have,” said Carol Dresser of Dryden. “It’s Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill. You’ve got to come on opening day to get the doughnuts and pie and all that stuff.”
Dresser, who bought a dozen doughnuts and an apple pie, said they were worth the wait.
She discovered the store only last year, but plans to return later in the season.
“They’ve always just been very pleasant to deal with and come to,” she said.
Updates will be posted on the store’s website, www.hollenbeckscidermill.com, and on its social media pages.