Donuts and Social Distance: Cider Mills Keep Going 2020 Style
(Drew Saunders, Sept. 12, 2020)
Even through the cotton of a pandemic-preventing face mask, customers can still smell the sugary goodness of fresh-made donuts, and the tinge of apple cider fragrant in the air as several local cider mills welcome guests back.
Many have memories of standing in line to walk through the areas historic mills, watching the apples get crushed into delicious juice, browsing gift shops ripe with Michigan-made items, reading signs about the use of water power and the importance such places had in the development and growth of communities.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to claim lives, and business shut downs and regulations to stop the spread, a visit to a cider mill in 2020 looks a little different than years past. But the fun still goes on, with some social distance changes.
“I’ve found that trying to plan ahead is always helpful. But being able to roll with the punches and adjust quickly is the best option nowadays,” Ed Granchi, the owner of Paint Creek Cider Mill, said. “It’s a whole new ballgame. I’ve been in the food industry 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Laura Peltz of the Franklin Cider Mill said she has rearranged her business entirely, including where customers park, to ensure safety. She even started a website to accommodate the new reality. Social distancing and masks will be mandatory in the sales area at the lower part of the facility and online orders can be picked up at the upper level.
“Everyone must have a mask to enter the sales area and we will have someone standing [at the entrance] prior to the sales area from the parking lot. They will make sure everyone has a mask,” Peltz said. “If someone is mask challenged, we will invite them to give us their order. We will call them in and have their order brought to the other side at the sales area.”
Diehl’s Orchard and Cider Mill in Rose Township found their solution by adding a walk-up window so guests can purchase cider, donuts, and apples from the staff inside. Owner Chris Diehl says that she had only had one person “walk away” from her establishment when faced with the new Covid-19 safety precautions. Diehl’s orchard is enforcing social distancing and mask requirements as customers walk up to their brand new walk up window. This is a service window built into the side of the building where customers can still get ciders and donuts in person.
“Because we’re seasonal businesses, we’re learning a little later than other businesses have been learning how to handle everything with Covid. We just show wish that people would show grace to business owners. Business owners are not out to hurt people. We are just trying to serve our community and run our small businesses the best we can in uncertain times,” Diehl said.
Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills is encouraging guests to enjoy the outside features, including petting zoo, booths, and trails, while limiting the number of patrons inside. Yates relies on the sale of many locally made products, and the inside sales continue but with limited capacity. “We ask that you please send only 1 representative from your group into the building to place your order,” the website says. They also offer a reminder to “smile and say hello to everyone around you.” There are hand sanitizing stations inside and out, and the petting farm area has a hand washing station.
Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill also explains on their website that it is requiring customers to use masks and that customers remain in their vehicles while they serve you in their new drive through operation. And like a lot of cider mills, Northville will not have all of its operations available – including the fudge, nut and hotdog stands.
Erwin Orchards will be celebrating its one hundredth season by similarly is having its staff go through a questionnaire and temperature test, much like other businesses worldwide. Staff and patrons older than three will have to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing, according to the South Lyon-based mill’s website.
These businesses are learning to survive just like with any other industry in the world right now. But Ed Granchi is endeavoring to do more with his cider mill/bistro combination. Because his store is a combination of a cider mill and a bistro, he can offer dining options. As the Erwin Orchards team navigates the pandemic, they’ve kept helping others at the forefront of their operations.
Starting last March, Granchi said that he has started providing lunches to parents with school age children who had previously depended on school lunches but might not have access to them at the moment.
“It’s for the kids who attend school where the lunch programs they relied on are no long available, or as easily available as they once were,” Granchi said. “We’re offering that here, where they can come in, no questions asked…. We’ve got your lunch covered.”
Looking for more fun, safe ways to enjoy Oakland County? Check out the Oakland County Times Explore! Index. For great food options, visit our Reporter Food Index which lists dining options by city, and real reviews written from first-hand experiences.