Officials celebrate opening of $1.1M preserves facility
WINDSOR — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin joined Blake Hill Preserves owners Vicky Allard and Joe Hanglin and regional economic development representatives on Thursday, Oct. 6 for a ribbon-cutting and tour to celebrate the completion of a new $1.1 million project in Windsor.
The 6,000-square-foot production facility and retail store opened six weeks ago at the Windsor Artisan Park.
“We all know Vermonters are the hardest-working people and the most ingenious workers you will ever find,” Shumlin said, after touring the facility.
Shumlin said that in several visits to the Artisans Park to celebrate business growth, he has met “a lot of Vermonters” and also many people visiting from outside the state.
“This is now a tourist destination,” he said.
Blake Hill Preserves offers seasonally fresh, locally grown, and creatively inspired jams, preserves, chutneys and marmalades. Before opening the storefront and kitchen facility in Windsor, the couple left corporate jobs in New York, moved to Vermont, and crafted preserves out of their 1800s farm in Grafton. They founded the business in 2009, and opened their first commercial preserves kitchen four years ago, producing about 500 jars of their preserves a week, Allard said.
Both Allard and Hanglin are third-generation English preserves makers.
“It feels a little surreal,” Allard said. We are truly grateful to everyone who has played a part.”
Allard said she and Hanglin are encouraged at how other businesses in the Artisans Park encourage people to “cross the road” and visit the other shops.
“We are true artisan makers,” she said. “We’re looking to make the best product we can. We’re continuously evolving.”
The business now has 10 employees, including a kitchen team, a “special ops” team that take care of logistics, the retail shop helpers, and a forager who goes out to seek fresh ingredients such as seasonal wildflowers and herbs.
The business produces 2,000 jars a day, with plans in the near future to expand and double the size of their facility, Allard said.
The Springfield Regional Development Corp. (SRDC) built the new facility with financing provided by the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), which provides financing for Vermont businesses and farms, according to a press release from SRDC. The town of Windsor and Artisans Park owner Terry McDonnell also came together with the development organizations to help make the new facility a reality.
SRDC Executive Director Bob Flint said the SRDC board took a “leap of faith” on the project, and said that he was thankful for their support, and to VEDA for the funding. Flint also said the town of Windsor is “very supportive and aggressive” about economic development.
Town Manager Tom Marsh said it has been “enlightening” to see how well local and state government, and regional planning entities have worked to bring projects such as the Blake Hill facility together. The Artisans Park, as a tourist destination, will help bring visitors to lodging facilities and other local businesses, he said.
With the new facility, the company can offer a direct retail experience to visitors for the first time.
Attending the ribbon cutting and tour with Shumlin and Flint were Steven Greenfield, Chief Operating Officer of VEDA; Marsh, McDonnell, and other regional development representatives.
Flint said the $1.1 million Blake Hill Preserves facility project would be an “economic boost” for Windsor and the region, and will allow Blake Hill to continue growth and add new jobs.
In its four years since first opening a commercial kitchen, Blake Hill has been a five-time U.S. Good Food Awards winner and finalist, according to the press release.
The company now has preserves in organic and specialty food stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.