Emily Southwood –
“Welcome to our new beginning,” reads the sign over the counter at Blair Orchards. The message pays homage to the accidental fire that devastated the kiosk at the beloved apple orchard on December 3rd, 2017.
The building has since been reconstructed and charmingly redecorated with flourishes from the past, just in time for a successful apple season.
The Blair story began when the family farm was originally purchased in 1889. Since then, it has been managed by four generations and received multiple accolades from The L’Ordre du Merite Agricole, including an award for Agrotourism. The farm is a popular place to visit for locals and tourists alike. On a given Sunday between September and November, the orchard hosts some 2000 people for apple picking, wagon rides, to soak up the live music and country atmosphere and, of course, eat a scrumptious bowl of soup, with homemade rolls and desserts. This September, the orchard hosted a successful Family Day with 4H square dancing performances and hundreds of families in attendance.
The bustling orchard was a welcome sight after the flurry of construction that began on March 15th and wrapped up the night before opening. The fire destroyed the kiosk portion of the building and the significant smoke damage to the dining area required that the building be torn down. “It was hard to do emotionally but easier logistically,” Jeff Blair explained. “Even though it’s not a house, it’s a building that our family spends so much time in and that we had built up over the years. It was hard.”
The layout of the new building remains the same but has been decorated in modern and rustic furnishings by Cynthia Blair. “We saved what we could,” Jeff explained as he proudly pointed out the store’s island made with barn wood from the portion of the building that was left standing. During the reconstruction, they made a few improvements like the cathedral ceilings in the dining room and a bigger cooler, but the essence of the space is as it was. The wall of family photos recounting Blair family history has been newly mounted on maple planks, with old tap holes intact, milled by a friend.
Across the way, a new photomontage now tells the story of the fire, and subsequent reconstruction, complete with how a spring snowstorm complicated matters. “We had to snow blow out the building because the roof wasn’t built yet,” Jeff mused. And as for the answer to the question that has been asked by many local children, “The bees that reside in the kiosk all fall were just fine. They had luckily been moved to the beekeepers for the winter.”