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Sugarmaker Profiles


  •  “LOOK AND SEE WHAT THE MARKET NEEDS, THEN GO FILL IT."

  •  Nick and Lynne Wendel holding their newborn Kaitlyn.

The ‘more’ in Wendel’s Maple & More

Farm's motto: “Look and see what the market needs, then go fill it.

By KATE ZIEHM | JANUARY 2017


Have you ever been to a 3-ring circus?  

In each ring, something different is going on, and you are not quite sure where to look for fear of missing something special.

The day that I visited Wendel’s Maple & More in East Concord, NY, that is sort of how I felt; like a child at a 3-ring circus. In each corner of the farm there was another facet of the Wendel’s business. My entrepreneurial heart was brimming with questions that I couldn’t wait to ask.

Marty Wendel, along with his wife, Bernie, son Nick, brother Dave, sister Sue and sister-in-law Denise own and operate Wendel Farms and all of the entities that it encompasses, including Wendel’s Maple and More.  

And “more” it is. A lot more. Nick says the motto at the farm has always been, “Look and see what the market needs, then go fill it.”

In 1945, Nicholas Wendel bought the property where Wendel’s is located in East Concord, NY. A grocer, he wanted his young family to know what it was to live close to the land and do more with their hands and the outdoors. His son Ron, Marty’s father, started raising meat birds as a way to make some money off of the farm. They grew the birds and then sold them live to bird processors who then sold and distributed to the grocery stores.

As things evolved and times changed the Wendel’s changed with them. Initially only a bird grower they turned into a processor as well, eventually even barbecuing chicken, selling birds out of their retail store, and now catering events at the beautiful new sugarhouse.

Speaking of sugarhouse, where does the maple come in?  Around the age of 8 or 9, Marty decided that he wanted to tap a maple tree. So he did. He tapped one maple tree and that was the beginning of his love of sugaring. 

Starting in his mom’s kitchen, he quickly got banished to the basement, where he couldn’t ruin any wallpaper. From there he went to the garage and finally in 1973 he built a small sugarhouse on the farm property. 

Every year he would boil and the maple sugaring soon became a family tradition. Slowly the family added taps to reach their current number of 4000 today. 

The syrup was a nice addition to their retail store too, adding sweet to the shelves and giving their customers more reasons to stop by.

In 2006 Marty’s son Nick saw an opening in the maple equipment market. “There was no one around selling the equipment in an area rich with maple trees, so I took the opportunity and ran with it.”  Wendel’s Maple and More was born.

Nick decided to shift gears from the HVAC path that he was on and moved forward becoming a dealer for Leader Evaporator, operating out of Marty and Bernie’s garage.

”Wendel’s have been a great member of the Leader Evaporator distribution network. They work hard to stay educated about the latest technologies and do a great job helping their customers. I have been impressed to watch them grow in the maple equipment business, and continue to do more each year to service our customers in Western New York,” said Brad Gillilan, President of Leader Evaporator Company.

And grow it has. The maple equipment business quickly outgrew the garage and in 2011 the family decided to build a brand new, state of the art maple equipment retail store and sugarhouse. “We weren’t planning on going that big, sort of, but we knew we needed to accommodate growth…so now we are renting out the facility for small private parties too,” Marty says with a chuckle. Nick’s sister Cami is looking to possibly make that a niche of her own, party planning.

Complete with balcony, restroom facility that looks like a stack of wood and an old maple tree that is the pillar in the foyer, the building is absolutely beautiful with no detail being missed.

What has worked well for the Wendel family is their ability to make changes to accommodate their needs as well as the markets. 

When I asked Marty what advice he would give to any new sugarmaker or entrepreneur he said, “don’t get nervous the first 1,2,3,4 years … don’t set expectations beyond what is reasonable. Heck, don’t set them at all. It is almost better not to have expectations. You will be disappointed and will miss opportunity because you are so focused on what you think you want. Be patient with the business. Be smart, it will work if the opportunity is there and you listen.”

After my visit with the Wendels I couldn’t help but think as I drove away … I thought about Kaitlyn, Nick and Lynne’s newborn baby girl that I rocked to sleep in my arms only hours before. I wondered about the great things she may have in store for this thriving business. You can guarantee that times will change. There will be an opening in the marketplace for a need to be filled. Will Kaitlyn be the next Wendel to fill it?

The choice will be hers, and with guidance, support, patience from her grandfather and the integrity of the generations that have come before her, I have no doubt she will succeed.