Tapping possibilities

Last modified: 11/11/2013 7:17:59 PM
A tractor-trailer truck pulls up, loaded down with over 2,000 plastic bottles, waiting to be filled with the pure maple syrup produced at Ben’s Sugar Shack in Temple. The driveway for the shack isn’t large enough to accommodate the big truck, so Ben Fisk, the owner of the sugar shack, goes out on his small tractor to unload the truck. It’s a familiar process, said Fisk, who can have four or five trucks a day bringing in supplies and trucking out product. By spring, Fisk hopes to be set up in the Sugar Shack’s new home — on 15 acres of land he recently purchased. Plenty of space, he says with a smile, to set up a proper loading and unloading dock.

When Fisk was 5 years old, his preschool took a trip to watch some maple syrup being made. By the time Fisk was back home, he had decided he wanted to try his own hand at making syrup. His father and grandparents had also done some syrup making in the past, so his father easily agreed to teach him the trade. Fisk started his maple syrup making with a homemade evaporator.

Then, when he was a 6 years old, he got quite the Christmas gift: A new evaporator and his first small sugarhouse. That was just the start of what would become Fisk’s lifelong business pursuit.

“I told all my teachers that I was going to make my living selling maple syrup,” he said. “Most said, ‘No way.’”

Now at age 25, Fisk is living off the sales of maple syrup and maple syrup products, which he makes with sap from his 20,000 tapped maple trees. This year is the first he’s had so many trees to manage, he said — last year it was only 15,000.

There’s a small window in the spring when Fisk can collect his maple syrup, he said. And during that period, timing is everything. “Maple sap rots in 24 hours,” he explained. “You have a very small window to get to it. If you have to work 50 hours straight, that’s what you do.”

But the business is ever growing, he said, doubling nearly every year since he started selling it to his neighbors and teachers as a boy. Now, he and his nine regular employees generally bottle about 2,000 bottles of syrup a day, and ship out thousands of boxes of maple candy per week. They move their products all over the United States, he said, but mostly his business is done with local stores.

“I like working one-on-one with people,” he said. And the product he sells is high-quality, he added. “We’ll only sell and produce something I like the flavor of. We put a lot of love into the product. This isn’t really a job for me, it’s something that I love to do that I happen to be able to make a living off of.”

It’s a business model that’s paid off for Fisk: His business has now outgrown its current location.

Fisk has long had his eye on a property at the end of Webster Highway, abutting Route 101. The 15 acres of land has been on the market for several years, and Fisk said he has always wanted to buy it. It was just a matter of raising the capital and this was the year for that.

The current location of Ben’s Sugar Shack will likely become storage, he said, and he’ll take the opportunity of the blank slate of land to build a sugar shack that’s tailor-made for his needs. A separate room for the evaporator, so that tours can be given without interrupting the rest of the operations. A larger gift shop to sell products on-site. More storage space to accommodate the products from the additional trees he tapped this year. The buildings will start to go up the moment he has his building permit, said Fisk, and he hopes to officially move operations by springtime.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari


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