FLY CREEK — The coronavirus pandemic put an end to a century-old Otsego County business Wednesday, Jan. 20, as the owners of the Fly Creek Cider Mill announced the business would close at the end of the month.
As the jingle at the tourist location in the hamlet of Fly Creek in the town of Otsego attests, the historic mill dates back to 1856. The Michaels family bought it in 1962, according to the website www.flycreekcidermill.com, and was in its second and third generation of ownership.
“We appreciate all of your support over the years,” read an email and social media message sent and posted Wednesday. “Thank you for your patience during this difficult time and please stay safe.”
Store employees told customers Wednesday that a sale was possible, but they did not think the Michaels family planned to reopen the doors.
FCCM Vice President and Co-owner Bill Michaels said in an email that he could not give many answers about the future of the mill.
“I can’t say anything at this time other than we will reassess things as the pandemic draws to a close,” he said.
The mill was a seasonal attraction until a 2016 expansion updated the HVAC system to allow full winter heating and completed a second floor.
Because the mill was a nonconforming, pre-existing business in a non-commercial area, the town of Otsego limited the expansion to educational purposes and the same footprint as the pre-existing structure. In response, the business expanded access to the fall apple pressing, including adding see-through floor and wall panels to allow visitors to observe the process from different angles.
Michaels had previously described the business structure as being based on five pillars: apples, fudge, a seasonal snack barn with meals, sales coming from samples, and merchandise, including holiday and mill branded products, with a heavy emphasis on fall weekend events that typically drew long lines to enter the store.
The business also sponsored a yearly fundraising event to support cancer detection.
However, a full season of COVID shutting down the Cooperstown area tourism industry had left the mill struggling at times. Employees said Wednesday that fall sales were steady, but the long spring shutdown and the summer without tourists were tough, and winter had slowed tremendously from the fall boom.
Response to the announcement was shock and sadness with thousands of social media responses and messages. One employee said the phone had not stopped ringing since the message went out.
The store’s stock is heavily discounted until the closing day, or until supplies run out.
“Our remaining inventory will be highly discounted and we encourage everyone to stock up on their favorite flavors of the mill,” the message said. “This inventory reduction sale applies to mill store purchases only and excludes all e-commerce sales.”
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7218.