It's a year like no other for Shaws Maple Syrup in Oro-Medonte Township.
Owner Tom Shaw says this year might be one of the strangest in the 162-year history of the multi-generational family business.
“The business is a shadow of its former self, but we are very encouraged by the number of people who are coming out and purchasing maple syrup,” he said.
“In light of what’s going on in the world, we are pleased. We are extremely happy to be back at work again and seeing people.”
Shaws opened their doors during the last week of February with restrictions in place to keep its customers safe. They offered breakfast via takeout. Now that the region has moved back into the red 'control' zone, limited dine-in service is on the menu, Shaw said.
This year, however, the horse-drawn wagon rides through the maple syrup bush have been put on hold.
“It’s a traditional feature here for many local families and we are not able to offer that this year, but what we do have this year is a walking trail for $5, which a lot of people are enjoying,” Shaw explains.
The walking trail features 10 different points of interest that tell the story of the Shaw family legacy and explain the process of making maple syrup.
“You are still able to see the sap boiling when I’m making it, you can still have pancakes here, it’s still a fun place to come and visit,” Shaw said.
For the first time, Shaws will also be opening an outdoor patio that can seat up to 100 guests.
“On warm days, we will be putting tables and chairs out in our parking lot like a patio, and there are no restrictions on that,” Shaw said.
“We have a good large parking lot here so we can keep people safe and socially distanced.”
So far, fewer visitors are coming to the Oro-Medonte landmark compared to previous years.
“People know that this place is typically very busy with lineups and such, so I’m sure there are people who would be worried about that,” he said.
“This is very much a generational family place which might throw a curveball at us, too. People might not want to bring out grandma and grandpa and they might not want to come out without them" amid the pandemic fears.
However, Shaw remains hopeful that business will pick up as the weather gets warmer.
“You never know, people have been cooped up for close to a year, so they might be more than happy to get out and go for a nice walk in the bush. We really don’t know what to expect. This is all new territory,” he said.
When it comes to the maple syrup itself, everything is running on schedule.
“We’ve had six runs and two boils so far and it looks like this week is when things are really going to start opening up and happening,” Shaw said.
“We are right on track for a normal year. There is lots of snow in the bush and we’ve had some good cold weather, so I anticipate another good season in that regard.”
Shaws is located on Line 14 South, just south of Orillia. For more information, visit their website.