Black Bear Sugarworks, a maple syrup farm from Vermont, has opened up its new retail space at 374 5th Avenue, between 5th and 6th Streets, not long after signs first went up announcing it was coming soon.
“So many locals have stopped by so far, which is nice,” owner Mark Hastings told us when we visited the space yesterday afternoon. “A lot of people have stopped by not for gifts, but for themselves, saying they expect to return in a month or so when they finish that bottle.”
Mark will be selling maple syrup from his farm in the space (plus jams and hot sauces from his neighbors), which was previously home to the Feldenkrais Center of Park Slope, through January, when he will close for renovations. He plans to make it feel just like a Vermont outbuilding, so that when you walk inside, you’ll be stepping right out of Brooklyn.
Part of those renovations will be to create a space for food preparation — for things like the hot dogs that he previously sold at a stand in Vermont — and at the very least to fulfill the neighborhood’s apparent strong desire for maple candy.
“Probably one in three people who have come in have been asking about candy,” Mark said, noting that they would be able to make it on site when the space reopens in about April.
And while the retail traffic so far has mostly been people looking for a sweet bit of Vermont for their own pantries, Mark is also busy fulfilling corporate gift orders and making deliveries to restaurants around the city. Plus, if you’re looking for a gift for someone who has everything, Black Bear Sugarworks offers maple leaf and log cabin gift bottles, which can be packed in gift boxes.
Because sugaring season doesn’t begin until about February, Mark doesn’t need to make the 3-hour drive to Vermont too often at the moment, and he seems happy to be able to tap this new market, which has a much larger draw than a stand in a small town.
One easy way he’s able to spread the word about maple syrup and its many uses to all these potential new customers is by offering tastes of his different varieties — if you’ve never had the opportunity to compare the grades, this is a great way to discover the differences. And Mark, whose background in running a software company has helped with his salesmanship in syrup, will be glad to explain exactly what makes those differences occur.
“People can just knock on the window if we’re in there but not open,” Mark said. “We’re farmers, we’re not widget makers, so we’re flexible. Come on in!”
Black Bear Sugarworks is located at 374 5th Avenue. Hours are Monday-Thursday 12-7pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-8pm, and Sunday 10am-6pm.