Windsor jam company’s expansion plans bear fruit

Blake Hill Preserves owner Vicky Allard chats with customers Elaine DeLong, left, Kristina Gould, and Sidney Gould, all of Enfield, Conn., at the store in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, April 10, 2024. As part of a larger financing package, the business is applying for funding through the Town of Windsor to support a $2.7 million facility expansion in Artisan Park. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Blake Hill Preserves owner Vicky Allard chats with customers Elaine DeLong, left, Kristina Gould, and Sidney Gould, all of Enfield, Conn., at the store in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, April 10, 2024. As part of a larger financing package, the business is applying for funding through the Town of Windsor to support a $2.7 million facility expansion in Artisan Park. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs – Jennifer Hauck

A customer tries a few of the many samples at Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. As part of a larger financing package, the business is applying for funding through the Town of Windsor to support a $2.7 million facility expansion in Artisan Park. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A customer tries a few of the many samples at Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. As part of a larger financing package, the business is applying for funding through the Town of Windsor to support a $2.7 million facility expansion in Artisan Park. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Nancy Foote, of Hartland, Vt., makes a purchase at Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Shop manager Jane Hughes is behind the counter. As part of a larger financing package, the business is applying for funding through the Town of Windsor to support a $2.7 million facility expansion in Artisan Park. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Nancy Foote, of Hartland, Vt., makes a purchase at Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Shop manager Jane Hughes is behind the counter. As part of a larger financing package, the business is applying for funding through the Town of Windsor to support a $2.7 million facility expansion in Artisan Park. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley news — Jennifer Hauck

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2024 6:26 AM

Modified: 04-11-2024 7:54 PM


WINDSOR — A growing fruit preserves manufacturer in Artisans Park is close to financing a $2.7 million expansion of their building to enable the company to keep pace with increasing customer demand.

Blake Hill Preserves, which makes specialty jams, marmalades and condiments, seeks to build 6,700-square-foot addition to their current 6,000 square foot facility at 60 Artisans Way, where the company produces, packages and distributes over 80 varieties of sweet, spicy or savory preserves to stores and customers around the country. 

Since moving to Artisans Park in 2016, the company has grown from 10 employees to a present staff of 45 people. Last year Blake Hill produced over 1 million units of preserves and shipped 983 pallets and over 9,300 packages of product-orders — about four times the company’s production volume seven years ago. 

“We’ve filled up that building space pretty quickly. And in recent years, we’ve been bursting at the seams,” said Vicky Allard, who co-owns Blake Hill Preserves with Joe Hanglin, her husband and business partner.

The addition will increase their combined building space to 12,700 square feet and will include a mezzanine for offices and meetings, and an expansion of their specialty preserves store. 

In the meantime, to make more space for production, packaging and ingredient storage, Blake Hill has had to lease three additional buildings, including one for offices and two for warehouses. Two of the buildings are located in Artisan’s Park and the other is in downtown Windsor. 

“We're constantly shuffling back and forth between buildings,” Allard said in a phone interview. “We will still keep the warehouse space in downtown Windsor but everything else we will be able to consolidate into our extended building.” 

Allard and Hanglin started Blake Hill Preserves in 2009 as a small business from their home in Grafton, Vt.

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The business came about unintentionally, after a family friend snuck some of Allard’s homemade jams from the pantry and brought them to the village store, Allard said. 

“He came back with the Sunday morning newspaper and an unexpected order from the store for everything I had made,” Allard said. “So it was totally unexpected but I thought that it would be fun (to start selling them).”

Allard, who is originally from England, began making jams and chutneys in Grafton for personal enjoyment, as it rekindled her childhood memories of making preserves with her family. She harvested apples or wild blackberries that grew on her property, or bought fresh-picked fruit from farmers markets. 

In 2012, as the preserves began to draw attention from customers outside of Vermont, the couple built a small commercial kitchen on their property. They switched from making jar labels by hand to an automated labeling machine and eventually had six employees.

“We expected that kitchen to last us a long time but we were getting interest in orders from some big national accounts and we just outgrew that space really fast,” Allard said.

Supermarket chains that carry Blake Hill products include Whole Foods and Kroger, which operates over 2,700 grocery stores nationwide. 

Artisans Park, located on Route 12 close to Interstate 91, is also home to Harpoon Brewery, Simon Pearce, SILO Distillery, Path of Life Sculpture Garden, Great River Outfitters, Artisan Eats and Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company Market.

“We’re all very excited for their plans to expand,” Artisans Park owner Terry McDonnell said in an interview. “It’s a win-win all around and a success story for Artisans Park, Blake Hill Preserves and the state.”

With a larger store at Artisans Park, Allard said she hopes to provide events that help customers think creatively about their use of preserves, such as cheese and jam pairings, or to showcase recipes that incorporate different types of jams. 

To finance the project, Blake Hill has received approval for loans from Mascoma Bank as well as three low-interest lending programs — Vermont Economic Development Authority, Springfield Regional Development Corporation and the Town of Windsor. 

Vermont Economic Development Authority, or VEDA, is a statewide financial lender that provides low-interest loans to help support commercial startup or expansion projects.

Springfield Regional Development Corporation, SRDC, a private, nonprofit organization that serves towns in southern Windsor County, also built Blake Hill’s current building in Artisan’s Park, which it leases it to Blake Hill under a lease-to-own agreement. A portion of the financial package for the expansion also will fund Blake Hill’s purchase of its existing building.

“This project allows them to make the next step in their company’s growth and we are happy to be there for them,” said Bob Flint, executive director of SRDC. 

Blake submitted a business plan to lenders as part of the loan review process, though Allard declined to discuss the company’s financial earnings in the interview. 

The Windsor Selectboard approved a $50,000 loan to Blake Hill from the town revolving loan fund at a meeting on March 27.

The fund is intended as an economic development tool to support startup or growing businesses in town, Town Manager Tom Marsh said in a phone interview. The loans have more flexible payment terms than a traditional bank loan and are meant to “help close the financial gap” needed by the borrower. 

Other businesses that have used the town loan fund include Simon Pearce and SILO. Blake Hill also borrowed $50,000 — which the company has since repaid — from the town fund in 2016 to support its relocation to Artisans Park, Marsh said. 

The Windsor loan includes five-year term and a one-time balloon payment, with 5% interest. The structure of the loan is intended  to lessen the amount of the repayments during the first five years, Marsh said. 

“Sometimes the loan program can be the difference between a business moving here or choosing somewhere else,” Marsh said. 

The loans from the lenders have been approved but still need to close, said Flint. 

Allard said they hope to complete the building expansion by November.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.