Greeting over 20,000 visitors each year from all over the world (including all of the United States) is one of the highlights of owning and operating the Sugar Shack, located between the Seaway Trail (a Federal by-way) and the high banks and bluffs of Lake Erie. Situated just one mile east of the gorgeous Barcelona Harbor and Lighthouse, the Sugar Shack features unique, locally grown and made fruit syrups from nearly every fruit indigenous to the area. Because of its close proximity to the New York State Thruway at Exit 60, which is a major tourist route to Niagara Falls from the Southern and Western parts of the US, it has become a great attraction and a wonderful place for travelers to take a break and see the body of water that travels another fifty or so miles and becomes Niagara Falls.
The Sugar Shack began in a gravel floored shed which served as a sugar house for boiling pure maple syrup. Six varieties of fruit syrups, as well as pure maple syrup, were offered. Of course, maple and grape syrups were two of the first flavors produced along with strawberry, peach, apple and wild black raspberry. Fifty bottles adorned the rough wooden shelves of the old shed. A used piece of plywood which had been hand painted with left over paint served at the only sign and was attached to the mailbox with old rusty grape trellis wire.
As the skeptical entrepreneur, I was doubtful that anyone would visit my business. I was stomping down my long driveway after putting up the sign when a car appeared, the man asked to taste my maple syrup and then asked, “What is maple syrup?”
That first customer was a mathematics professor from New Zealand and I gave him a tour of the evaporator, the maple hardwood forest surrounding the Sugar Shack and a taste of the sweet, natural substance. He asked for advice about seeing water, mountains and farm country before he flew out of Buffalo the next day on a world tour. I gave him my own New York State map, sent him through the Village of Westfield with a description of the wonderful shops and restaurants he would find there. He travelled along Lake Chautauqua to Alleghany State Park and then back to Buffalo International Airport to fly to another University speaking engagement. That was the first of thousands of maple tours given and the first of thousands of tourist suggestions offered.
The next day there was a car full of folks from Kentucky who were interested in the grapes. They received the first grape farm tour and more information about our great community and all that it offers to residents and visitors alike. Cards and letters of thanks began to arrive from these visitors and number in the thousands now. The original fifty bottles of syrup were all sold the first week. A United States map was put on the wall and visitors pasted a star on their home town. The tradition continues at the beginning of this 17th year of operation.
The first summer was 1993 and five hundred carloads of people came to the Sugar Shack. A trail to the edge of the high banks was established for a guided tour through the endangered plants and hardwood forest. Free tastings began and now thousands of people each year enjoy free tastes of our syrups on ice cream.
In 1999, a Sunday Pancake breakfast was offered. That part of the business is operated by Robert Black and his family and serves some of the pure maple syrup he produces and sells at the Sugar Shack. The breakfast business has tripled in ten years and reservations are advised. Andrew and Lawrence Putnam and their families operate the grape farm, produce pure fruit jellies and maintain the computer systems and web site (www.sugarshack1.com).
The Sugar Shack is privileged to be located in Westfield, where the open spaces, vineyards, wineries, small unique shops and rural farming businesses exist and cooperate with one another. The location at the intersections of three major east-west highways and only ¼ mile from Exit 60 on the NY State Thruway is the closest access point to Lake Erie from Interstate 90. The panoramic view of the cliffs of this shallowest of the Great Lakes is well worth the time to visit our community.
Visitors won’t want to miss the friendly staff at the Sugar Shack with its locally made crafts and syrups or the antique shops, restaurants, wineries, specialty shops, and bed and breakfast inns where they can enjoy fresh air, open spaces and the most spectacular sunsets in the world.
Links: Sugar Shack