CHARLEVOIX, Mich.—Maple syrup with a taste of pumpkin is among the selections offered by a growing family-owned syrup making company to get customers in the mood for autumn.
Harwood Gold in Charlevoix, Michigan has a wide selection of year round and seasonal flavors, including Pumpkin Spice.
Amber Munday and her sister, Katie Untalan, have greatly expanded the maple syrup menu since taking over the brand from their parents, Dave and Terri Parsons, in 2014.
Munday said she inserts pumpkin spices into each bottle then pours hot maple syrup into the bottles to draw out the flavors.
She said their Cinnamon Quill, Three Bean and Bourbon Barrel Aged infused maple syrups are also seasonal but more consistent than Pumpkin Spice in sales throughout the year.
‘’In my opinion, all of maple syrup is a very autumn product,” Munday said. “This is the time of year where our product sales start to increase because it’s a very warm and cozy product to want to have on your breakfast table.”
Another Harwood Gold seasonal product is Pumpkin Dust, a combination of spices sweetened with maple sugar for people to take home and sprinkle on anything from baked goods to yogurt.
Maple syrup making was more like a hobby in the Parsons family for about a century until the sisters turned the craft into a full-fledged business.
John and Terri Parsons were selling traditional maple syrup mostly at local farmers markets and restaurants until bitten by the urge to slow down.
They offered their daughters a chance to continue the family tradition and with ideas for capitalizing on changing trends in the food service industry they jumped on board.
“We decided to run with it,” Munday said.
Munday and Untalan now have 70 products, including 15 infused maple syrup brands and three grades of traditional maple syrup.
They also opened Harwood Gold store and café now in its fifth year in downtown Charlevoix. People can go in and buy maple syrup or have a cup of gourmet coffee and a pastry.
Seven different sweet and savory meat pies are also on the dine-in and carry out food menu.
Their father, a retired machinist, hasn’t retired altogether, though.
The 74-year old Parsons is still tapping trees in his 200 acre woods and boiling down the sap as his daughters’ supplier.
The average 1,000 gallons of syrup he churns out every late winter and early spring comes to them in kegs.
Amber spends much of her brutal northern Michigan winters inside a commercial kitchen creating different flavors and bottling the syrup in containers ranging from 3.4 ounces to one gallon.
“I buy those barrels from him and make our product,” she said.
Untalan creates the labels for all 70 of the Harwood Gold products.
She’s also in charge of marketing and designing the expanded Harwood Gold website featuring links to click for ordering products along with impressive visuals of the products and details about the family’s history in syrup making.
Specialty shops, including some outside Michigan, also carry their syrup.
The family homestead near Harwood Lake was established in 1898 but it wasn’t until about 1910 when George Parsons owner of a saw mill and thrashing company tapped an old maple tree in the middle of a field.
He then boiled down the sap and canned the syrup in jars.
More trees were tapped over time and by the late 1930’s his son, Bill, took over the farm.
He bought a King Evaporator so he could milk the cows and keep an eye on the boiling sap instead of running back and forth between the dairy barn and open fire.
Making syrup at the Parsons farm was still very much a hobby while the sisters were growing up and eating sundaes made from pouring syrup over the snow next to their father’s tiny sap house.
Their parents took things to the next level by ushering in a more high tech sap house and selling their syrup at local farmers markets, restaurants and online more than a decade ago.
Munday and Untalan left their private sector jobs to operate the business full-time.
“There’s definitely been a lot of learning curves but I wouldn’t look back either,’’ Munday said.