Joe Lavoie, owner of Dad’s Maple Sugar Shack in Harrison, tends his operation during Maine Maple Sunday last year. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

SABATTUS — For a new sugarhouse, the prospect of skipping Maine Maple Sunday, the Christmas morning of Maine Maple Syrup production, seems ludicrous.

But for Courtney Wheeler, who owns Maple Rush Sugar House in Sabbatus with her brother, Jordan Davis, it’s a new reality.

The Maine Maple Producers Association announced Monday that all Maine Maple Sunday events should be postponed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Maple Rush has been in business for three seasons and, according to Wheeler, simply closing up shop isn’t possible.

“Financially, because we are the new guys on the block, we have a lot invested,” Wheeler said. “We’re still trying to work out way up making products and making profit. We couldn’t just close our doors and be done with it; we had to get creative.”

Part of that strategy is utilizing Facebook. At 10 a.m. Saturday, Maple Rush will broadcast a live video tour of the production facility and accept orders via Facebook Messenger.

Wheeler said customers will be able to buy fresh kettle corn, cotton candy, and maple syrup from the comfort of home.

“(Customers can) place an order on Facebook Messenger . . . they come pick it up Sunday, or they can have it shipped right to the door,” Wheeler said, “like a Hannaford-To-Go, Maine Maple weekend style.”

Wheeler said the sap production has been stellar so far, and the momentum was building to have the biggest Maine Maple Sunday yet.

Tom Edgecomb of Pep’s Pure Maple Syrup in Sabattus, said the sap has been flowing freely this winter, and his production is up about 20% from last season.

“We were really looking forward to Maine Maple Sunday this year,” he said. “We cooked last night until about 2 a.m.; we’re cooking today and we’re still in full production mode . . . it’s been a great season so far.”

Edgecomb said he still plans to deliver products to customers as a way to recoup some of the profits lost this season.

“At the end of the day, we still have syrup,” he said. “Instead of doing large gatherings and groups, we’re delivering.”

Joe Lavoie, owner of Dad’s Maple Sugar Shack in Harrison, has been alone in his shack since Maine Maple Sunday was canceled. Since the taps are still flowing, he was plenty of product available.

“We’re all just continuing what we normally do . . . I’m boiling sugar right now,” he said. “We have customers that come in. We’re doing curbside service; it’s working pretty good.”

But it’s not enough to cover the loss of overhead that comes with the cancellation of such an important event for the industry.

“It was heartbreaking to shut down maple syrup Sunday,” Lavoie said. “We have  a lot of overhead we can’t have covered. We’re doing what we can.”


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