For years, Thanksgiving has signaled two things for regulars of the Apple Barrel Fruit Stand: tasty Hutterite turkeys and the closing of the store for the season. But this fall, the market’s doors are staying open – the Apple Barrel is now open year round, and owners Dave and Dana Cordell say that’s just the first of many changes to come.
Since Dave Cordell opened the Apple Barrel in 1996, his market has garnered a loyal following, especially among those who appreciate fresh fruit and vegetables. The store specializes in pesticide-free produce, much of which is local. It also offers cheeses, jerky, kitchen supplies, spices, juices, ice cream and an assortment of other treats.
But now the Cordells want to expand the range of their offerings. First up on the list, they will begin holding canning, pickling and cooking classes on Saturdays throughout the fall and winter. This summer they held an asparagus pickling class, which was widely attended. Some of the sessions may feature chefs from local restaurants.
They have the fruits, veggies and expertise to teach canning and pickling, not to mention the in-house kitchen. So the classes seem like a logical next step. During the summer, there are festivals and gatherings across the valley, but Dana Cordell said in the coldest winter months the area turns into somewhat of a “polar ice cap” with not much happening. The classes will help liven the lull, she said.
“People will have a fun place to go and have fun things to do,” she said.
Dave Cordell was raised in a farming family in East Wenatchee, Wash. They grew mostly tree fruits such as cherries, apples and plums. But when he returned to the family business after college graduation, market conditions signaled the need for a shift in practices. Essentially, the Cordells figured they should try to get into the business of selling fruit as well as growing it.
“We thought who better to sell the fruit than the people who grow it,” Cordell said.
In East Wenatchee, however, Cordell said there were at least 15 produce markets. Heading west to Seattle wouldn’t lighten the competition, either. So Cordell headed east, to the beautiful Flathead Valley. Logistically and aesthetically, it felt right.
When Cordell built the Apple Barrel on U.S. Highway 2 near Glacier Park International Airport, he anticipated a steady stream of tourists stopping by on their way to the national park. What he didn’t anticipate was the “phenomenal local market.” Fourteen years later, the Apple Barrel is a bustling destination for high-quality, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Dave and Dana Cordell get local goods “as much as we can.” This doesn’t just apply to produce: the jerky, barbecue sauces and other items are made in Montana as well. Then, of course, there are the famous Hutterite turkeys at Thanksgiving. The Hutterites – from the Kingsbury colony in Valier – also provide veggies, eggs and delicacies like sauerkraut.
“They do a super job,” Dave Cordell said.
Before the classes start up in October, Dave Cordell will churn out gallons of his annual apple cider batch. Then when classes begin, the Cordells will look to implement some of their other business plans, which will be especially important when the growing season slows down in the winter.
For one, they want to increase their inventory of kitchen supplies. Montana-produced beer and wine will also be a top priority. Furthermore, the Cordells will offer homemade, ready-to-cook meals. Then, down the road, they hope to open separate meat and seafood departments, along with a deli.
“That’s next – that’s part of the evolution,” Dave Cordell said.
The Cordells want the classes to be free, when possible. Most likely, they will be held on Saturdays. The Cordells will continue to hold school tours of their market and nurture their tight-knit relationship with local growers.
“We need the growers to be happy, we want to be happy and we need the customers to be happy,” Dave Cordell said. “It’s the trifecta.”
The Apple Barrel is located at 3250 U.S. Highway 2 East and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, though the winter hours might be slightly different. It can be reached at (406) 755-7753.
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