Vermont

There’s a Maple Syrup Museum in Vermont, and It Could Be Yours

Ready to make a sweet life change? The New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vermont, is for sale, and it could be yours.

By Ian Aldrich

Jan 17 2019

NE Maple Museum_Exterior

Young visitors to the New England Maple Museum. | Maple Syrup Museum for Sale

Photo Credit : Courtesy New England Maple Museum
Do you love New England–made maple syrup? Not just pour-it-on-your-pancakes-every-Saturday-morning love, but something deeper — as in, maybe you’d even consider changing your life for it? If so, you should know that the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vermont, is for sale, and its current owner, Mike Blanchard, is looking for just the right successor. This four-decade-old Vermont institution offers about as maple-y an experience as you’ll find anywhere. There’s a recap of the history of sugaring, artwork devoted to syrup making, and a number of unusual artifacts, including a 1,700-gallon maple jug that sits out front.
Young visitors to the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vermont.
Photo Credit : Courtesy New England Maple Museum
The story of the New England Maple Museum begins in 1977, when Tom Olson, a native Vermonter and an engineer at Grimes Manufacturing, one of the leading makers of sugaring equipment, decided the industry deserved a proper place to showcase its history and technology. He erected a small building on a five-acre spot on Route 7, bought the artifacts from a much smaller maple museum that had recently shuttered its doors, and opened for business. Olson also commissioned several murals by a local artist to illustrate the history of making maple syrup, from the days when Native Americans first experimented with sugaring to modern times (including an explanation of the science behind reverse osmosis). As business boomed, so did the museum’s offerings. In 1985, Olsen added on to the building, doubling its size. Today, visitors have nearly 7,000 square feet to peruse.
This history of New England’s maple syrup industry comes alive at the New England Maple Museum.
Photo Credit : Courtesy New England Maple Museum
A visit to the museum begins with a greeting by “Mr. Doolittle,” a talking mannequin dressed like a Vermont farmer (think flannel and more flannel), who explains the work of sugaring on his farm. There are hand-carved dioramas, exhibits of old equipment, and something called the “Wall of Shame,” in which faux maple products are humorously showcased. (Spoiler alert: Aunt Jemima does not get a lot of love.)
Sugaring artifacts at the New England Maple Museum.
Photo Credit : Courtesy New England Maple Museum
There’s also a large evaporator that simulates the maple process. Push a button, and sap drains from a fake tree into a holding tank, then runs through the evaporator, and emerges as maple syrup. Nearby, there’s a tasting room in which visitors can sample the four grades of syrup and try other maple-related products, like locally made cookies, jams, and jellies. The museum store also offers those items for sale, along with T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats. Mike Blanchard, a retired used-car dealer who grew up in nearby Rutland with Tom Olson, was fascinated by what his old friend had started. “I’d go to the diner across the street and watch the buses roll in and think, I’d love to own something like that someday,” he says. “I even told Tom, ‘If you decide to ever sell, let me know. I’m your buyer.’” In 2012, Olson was ready for a change, and early the following year, Mike and his wife, Mary, became the museum’s new owners. For the next five-plus years the Blanchards poured their hearts into their new business. They loved interacting with the visitors and leading tours. It was a hobby — albeit a busy one — that gave the couple an opportunity to work together, along with their two sons, J.J. and Todd.
Jams for sale at the New England Maple Museum.
Photo Credit : Courtesy New England Maple Museum
But over the past year, both Mike and Mary, who are in their seventies, developed health problems. The energy they have to run the place just isn’t there. “We were working harder than we ever planned to,” Mike says. But it’s been a struggle to find the right owner. Some folks have inquired about just the property, which includes a pond and a covered bridge. Mike has also talked to people who are interested in buying the inventory to move the museum to a different location. But his first choice is to find someone who wants to buy what’s already been established. “It’s ready to go,” he says. “It’s a turnkey operation. And being where it is on Route 7, it’s got high visibility.” The current asking price is $450,000 for both the property and the New England Maple Museum business. For purchase inquiries, contact Mike Blanchard at 802-770-0544.