BENNINGTON -- Lia Diamond, owner of The Apple Barn & Country Bake Shop, was handed the business by her father in 1995. On Thursday, she opened the doors for her tenth season running the Apple Barn by herself.
Her father was an apple grower who purchased Southern Vermont Orchard in 1972. A year later, the family-owned store opened its doors to sell Vermont products, baked goods and to allow customers to pick their own berries and apples.
After spending the early part of spring making some changes to the store, Diamond said Thursday that the orchard is just getting plants and trees prepared for the season. "We are just uncovering them today, so we'll be starting blueberry and strawberry picking between the end of June and the beginning of July," she said.
Diamond said it takes her about two months to get the store up to par as business grows over the summer, which is okay because she only employs four full-time people until fall foliage starts. By the end of the summer, she will have up to 20 people working in The Apple Barn, 604 U.S. Route 7, to deal with the autumn shuffle.
"Today we are trying to let everyone know that we are open for the season," Diamond said. "We have made doughnuts all morning, and we are already running out of them. That's unusual for the first day."
New this year to the bakery are apple and pumpkin donuts in addition to their already popular apple cider and maple doughnuts, which are also sold at the Bennington Hannaford, 141 Hannaford Square.
New this season, the Apple Barn has soft-serve ice cream and a new section of maple products. Diamond has also improved the dining room with a new display showing how maple syrup is made.
Additionally, Diamond's team worked to have a "Johnny Appleseed" character illustrated to help brand the store.
"The store just has a completely fresh new look this year," Diamond said. "The entire store has been reshelved and redisplayed."
Southern Vermont Orchard employs 23 people to cover more than 300 acres of apple orchards. For more information on the store or the orchard, visit http://www.theapplebarn.com/.
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