ANGELICA — There is a place off the beaten path that has been serving all-you-can-eat buckwheat pancakes and pure maple syrup for over fifty years.
The family-operated pancake house called Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn is a tradition for five generations of customers. They are open Valentine’s Day through April 15.
Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn Owner Virginia Cartwright gave Genesee Country Express a special tour.
“We got a brand new evaporator this year,” she said. “We had the other one for about 10 years, but it was wood fired. With a wood fired machine we couldn't shut it down fast if there was a fire. It became a safety concern, so we bought the new machine. This works much faster.”
Will Emmons, Virginia’s grandson, is the new evaporator operator. Emmons enjoys working in the syrup room, that he refurbished for the new machine.
“This is fuel oiled,” he said. “There are four burners that blow eat, and the syrup goes in an ‘S’ formation as it boils down and gets denser. It has to boil down to 67 percent sugar. We make all of our own syrup for the pancakes and to sell in the gift shop. In the right conditions it can last indefinitely. You can freeze it and store it for a long time.”
Emmons began making the syrup for this year’s batch of customers in January.
This pure finished maple syrup goes through the filter press and becomes clearer.
“We sell a lot of syrup,” Emmons said. “It is the lifeblood of this place.”
Cartwright said the new machine has been very efficient.
“Before we had this machine Will needed help making the syrup,” she said. “Now he can do it on his own. The other guys are in the room canning, and they don’t have to throw logs into the machine. It makes things a lot easier. When my husband was alive we had four sons that would cut and stack the wood for the machine.”
Emmons said what he does is standard to any big maple producer.
Cartwright said her husband found out that if they sold the maple syrup in smaller quantities to customers they would make more money. There was a time when they would sell it in bulk.
“We have done the evaporator room three times, and this time Will did the work,” she said. “I am really proud of him.”
Emmons said that there has to be 500 gallons of sap in the machine in order to start the evaporator.
“We can get about 40 gallons of finished product in an hour with this machine,” he said.
Cartwright said they have come a long way from how they use to make syrup.
“The sap use to be collected in a huge wooden barrel that was drawn by horses,” she said. “They would carry it on a bobsled and bring a bucket to every tree.”
This antique and many others from the family business can be found at the bottom of the shop.
“There was a lot that went into this at first,” Cartwright said. “Being dairy farmers we only had the winter to do this. All of the Cartwright’s ade syrup back then. I didn’t know anything about syrup until I married him. My husband’s grandparents made it and sold it as sugar cakes and hard sugar for cooking.”
There are about eight members of the Cartwright family that work in the shop. They all have full-time jobs on the farms, teaching, or college students. This is the main reason the shop is only open a couple months out of the year.
Cartwright fought her husband on the name of the shop since it seemed silly to name it Maple Tree Inn.
“I begged and pleaded for him to not name it Inn. I told him he can keep Cartwright Maple Tree, but not use the word Inn. An Inn is a place you drink at and stay all night,” she said. “We still get calls from people asking if they can stay the night.”
Cartwright was the original pancake maker in 1963 when they opened up the place. This honor is now passed down to her daughter, Rhonda. The family really loves and appreciates their customers.
“They use to wait in the rain and snow,” Cartwright said. “That is what makes this place work is the tons of people who come here.”
A lot of the original setting is there; such as the original oven, counter, booths, and chairs. There is a feeling of nostalgia for the ones who have come for the all-you-can-eat buckwheat pancakes since they were young.
Rhonda Cartwright Amidon has been helping her parents with the shop since she was a small child.
“The weekends are the busiest times for us,” she said. “People drive or fly in from all over. We get people from Virginia, Boston, North Carolina, Chicago, California, and students from overseas come as well. We get students from Germany and Japan that will bring their families when they visit.”
Amidon said she and her five siblings would work here, do schoolwork, and chores on the farm while they were growing up.
New to Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn this year is maple cotton candy. Amidon said there is nothing like it, and it is the best cotton candy there is.
The family-owned dairy farm is still in full operation as well, so they go back to that once the shop closes down for the season.
“The customers are my favorite thing about this place,” Amidon said. “We meet people from all walks of life. I am proud of what my parents started, and believe it is quite a legacy.”
Cartwright agrees that the stories are the best part.
“I love the stories,” she said. “They will come and say that their grandmother use to take them here, and now they are taking their kids.”
Ronald Cartwright passed away in 2004, but he was able to see his dream come true.
“This was my husband’s baby through and through,” Cartwright said. “He loved it. He would make pancakes and sing the whole time. I grew up in Nunda and met him at a dance. He lost his parents when he was 7 years old, and had to be the main supporter for his siblings and grandparents. He worked on the farm to support his family.”
Cartwright said she would like to retire, but she loves the customers too much.
“Our customers and employees are the best,” she said. “I want to retire, but I love the customers so much. I want to see them.”
For more information on the history of the Cartwright maple syrup, directions, and family traditions you can visit the website at http://www.cartwrightsmapletreeinn.com/ They are located at 4321 County Road 15A in Angelica. The hours are Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are closed Mondays and Easter Sunday. The gift store can be reached at 585-567-8181.