SHELBURNE — The decision to open the restaurant for this year’s maple season was not an easy one for the owners of Davenport Maple Farm Restaurant.
“We decided a week before we opened,” co-owner Michelle Olanyk said Saturday afternoon, in between taking orders from customers and bringing coffee to tables. “We had to find two cooks; my husband and I are doing most everything else.”
The restaurant opened March 6 and will be open weekends through the month.
Over the last few weeks, several other restaurants in Franklin County — including Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield and Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse in Shelburne — announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the health safety restrictions in place, they would be unable to open for maple season. Williams Farm Sugarhouse will, however, be open strictly for the sale of maple products on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Olanyk said it was important for the family-run breakfast restaurant on Tower Road to find a way to open the restaurant — even if it meant just breaking even.
She notes the restaurant is a collaboration between two families — she and Todd Olanyk, owners of Davenport Maple Restaurant; and Lisa and Norm Davenport, owners of Davenport Maple Farm.
“Maple sugar season happens whether there is a pandemic or not,” Olanyk said. “Maple syrup is made, and the farmers need to sell it; it’s their first crop of the season. For them, for us to open is very important.”
Olanyk said the precautions required of the restaurant during the pandemic mean they’re “doing more with less.”
“We’re running a little faster, trying to cover the bases with less people, so the overhead of the restaurant makes sense to the business we’re getting,” she said.
Still, Olanyk added, “People are coming, and they’re happy to be here.”
“People are buying the syrup,” she said. “They’re happy to buy local.”
She said the restaurant itself doesn’t compare to previous years — for one, the hustle and bustle of family-style seating was lost due to the pandemic.
“Typically, we could sit anywhere from 50 to 60 people,” she said — and those were the kinds of numbers they’d expect on any Saturday morning. “Now, the max we can do is six (per table), so the most we could get in here is probably 25 at one time.”
Ultimately, the decision to open this season fell largely on the state’s loosened restrictions on restaurants, she explained.
“We were flip-flopping back and forth,” she said. “It really changed for us when they loosened the restriction to no longer have a capacity limit — it was just 6 feet apart. So, if you had a big enough space, you could fill it.”
She said the new rules meant the restaurant could make it work without losing in the process.
“We’d be able to sell some of this year’s crop,” she said. “And that’s what we’re here for.”
Davenport Maple Farm Restaurant will offer dine-in and takeout meals on Saturdays and Sundays this month from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Maple products are also available for pick-up during the week by calling the restaurant at 413-625-2866.
Mary Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne