Rest of tourism spot aims for May opening By Eric Lewis Times & Transcript Staff
Riverview residents who have been holding their breath all this time waiting for the town's first real foray into tourism can exhale -- and prepare for the sweet taste of victory come Monday.
The town's old fire hall on Coverdale Road, now known as the Fundy Chocolate River Station, was expected to open in time for the 2009 tourist season. That never happened, and since then, it's looked like it was stuck in its own little ghost town.
But what wasn't evident from outside the building is that the fine folks at Briggs Maples, formerly Rocky Mountain Maples, have been hard at work for the last several weeks setting up shop. Part museum and interpretation centre, part maple product production house and part retail outlet, Briggs Maples' section of the Chocolate River Station is taking shape.
Yesterday, shelves were being stocked with candy and syrup, while production folks were mixing up the next batch. In the middle of it all was David Briggs, owner of the company his father opened in 1998 and part of a family whose name has been associated with maple products for five generations.
While acknowledging that it's been a frustrating year or so of waiting to finally open his doors to the public, Briggs says the lengthy delay in opening Riverview's tourism centre allowed him time to fully prepare for his company's first proper retail outlet.
"It's been a frustrating battle, but you put that behind you," he says, saying this new venture will allow his company to expand its retail sales market.
Briggs will open his shop's doors to the public on Monday, but the rest of the Chocolate River Station will remain closed until the other tenants -- Olivier Soapery, Ganong Chocolates and an Albert County tourism office -- are ready to go.
Shane Thomson, Riverview's director of economic development, says he is aiming to open all doors in the building in early May, followed by a grand opening in early June.
Briggs Maples and Olivier Soapery have both signed their leases in recent weeks, and while Ganong hasn't yet, Thomson says all signs show that the company is still on board with the project. A representative of the St. Stephen company was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Thomson would not comment on the terms of the leases that have been signed, but he said all tenants are in the facility for "the long haul."
The Chocolate River Station project was supposed to open in time for last year's tourism season, but various problems with the old building caused delays. Also, the town's then-economic development officer moved on and the position was vacant for many months, meaning no one could dedicate their time to the file. Thomson came on the job in November and has been working on the project since.
While things might be bare throughout much of the building currently, David Briggs' operation is well underway, and it's clear a visit to Briggs Maples won't just be a trip to the sweet shop.
Walking into the shop's main doors off the Chocolate River Station's parking lot leads one into a mouth-watering maple marvel -- large shelves and several displays are stocked full of sticky, sweet maple products. Maple trees are set up as decoration that give the store the scent of a forest.
Walk through the store and down a hallway and you'll be able to see maple experts mixing, pouring and hand-crafting the good stuff through large glass windows. Briggs says the beauty of his setup is it allows folks to learn how maple products are made.
"A lot of people go to the grocery store and see (syrup) in a bottle and have no idea how it got there," he says. He's hoping to change that.
Finally, at the end of the hall, there are more trees for decoration and shelves lined with artifacts from the maple industry's history. The Briggs family has been in the maple business "for five generations that we know of," David Briggs says, and he wants to share the history of the business with patrons.
Upstairs at the old fire hall is a large area with several empty rooms that Thomson says are open for prospective tenants to consider, including one large room that could make an ideal setting for a restaurant or food court-style area. There's even a balcony overlooking the Petitcodiac River that allows a surprisingly stunning view of Metro Moncton.
"If you're in the hospitality industry and you see the opportunity for this type of summer balcony atmosphere, I think you're onto something," Thomson says.
Also upstairs, the Downtown Riverview Business Association plans to set up shop, moving from its current home in Riverview Mall.
Behind the building is a large patio and boardwalk that Thomson says will likely be used for community events in the summer and could perhaps serve as a weekend marketplace.
Riverview Mayor Clarence Sweetland said yesterday he's excited to see the tourism venture's opening getting closer. He says it was somewhat frustrating to see the project delayed for so long, but notes that when working with an older building, there can often be unexpected issues pop up.
He says the town is excited to see the project reach completion and hopes it spurs tourism interest as the spring weather approaches.
Briggs Maples plans to open Monday and run hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. Hours may change in the future. The retail outlet can be reached at 382-3380.
The Magnetic Hill Zoo will be open on Sundays in March, (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) from 11 am to 3 pm, weather permitting.
The Zoo’s volunteer organization will be hosting these Sunday openings by serving free hot chocolate & cookies while supplies last. New this year, Briggs Maples will also be selling $2 sticks for maple taffy on the snow as well as selling a variety of other maple products. Admission is a cash donation to the Zoo’s current fundraiser to bring tigers back to Moncton. Come take advantage of the unique experience of seeing the Magnetic Hill Zoo animals in the snow and enjoy some of New Brunswick’s maple products provided by Briggs Maples!
“After much deliberation, it was decided to convert the building into a tourist attraction where visitors could get information and purchase samples of New Brunswick products like soap, chocolate and maple syrup.”
“When complete, the Chocolate River Station will be home to outlets for Olivier Soapery, Ganong Cocolates and Rocky Mountain Maples.”
“Downtown Riverview Business Association Heather Harris said”
“According to town officials, exterior work is slated for completion by mid-August and the first floor interior is expected to be finished by mid- too late –September. Once up and running, the Fundy Chocolate River Station will house full production facilities for Rocky Mountain Maples, an exciting development for Riverview’s new tourism venue.”
“David Briggs of Rocky Mountain Maples said the temperature during the day has been good but the nights need to be colder, ideally at -10C (50F) to really get the sap flowing. Still, the sap is moving and hopefully the weather will co-operate over the next few weeks, he said. The window of opportunity for maple production is small, only about four weeks in the spring, and a difference of one degree can be significant, he explained.”
T&T staff Cole Hobson Headline “Weather slows maple syrup season”
“David Briggs of Rocky Mountain Maples in Stilesville says they have gotten a bit of sap running and they will be open in full force this weekend, offering tours to those who show up as well as having products available for purchase and samples of taffy on the snow.”
“It’s just an area that has been developed through the generations, and it’s just a tradition that’s carried on out here, I guess,” said David Briggs, Owner of Rocky Mountain Maples Inc. “Briggs said this is the last year the longtime producer will be operating out of it’s Stilesville location before moving permanently to the new Fundy Gateway, which will be located in the old Riverview fire hall on Coverdale Road, sometime this summer.” Rocky Mountain Maples is home to a wide selection of maple goodies, and offers guided camp tours and demonstrations into how various types of products are made. Reservations are recommended. Briggs said “he hopes to be fully up and running by the end of next week, and suggests people looking to visit any of the local sugar bushes call ahead before their visit to verify camp conditions, which can change drastically with each day.” “It’s an outdoor experience, it’s been a long winter and people like to get out and start to think about the warmer months coming, and a sugar camp makes for a nice experience.”
T&T staff Eric Lewis Headline “Ganong to set up shop in Riverview”
Ganong’s staff Jeff McShane “We’re working as a group with Olivier and Rocky Mountain Maples, the other major tenants in the complex. And so we’re kind of working on the things that will be done there.”
T&T staff Eric Lewis Headline “Old Riverview fire hall becomes Chocolate River Station”
Rocky Mountain Maple, a maple sugar company based in Hillsborough, will open a retail outlet in Chocolate River Station, owner David Briggs says. “I’m excited for it.” he said yesterday. “It’s a whole new venture for us.” Rocky Mountain Maple has been in business in Stilesville for 10 years, but maple sugar processing has been in the Briggs family for five generations. Opening a retail outlet is the next logical step. Briggs says the operation will have a museum-like atmosphere and will showcase processing of all kinds of maple products, including maple butter, cream, syrup and candy. Displays showcasing family history and maple syrup history will be a part of the store.”
T&T staff Emily Ridlington Headline “Maple syrup production across New Brunswick down”
“An average season is about four or five weeks, we got about two weeks this year,” said David Briggs owner of Rocky Mountain maples in Stilesville. “Briggs used to sell a gallon of syrup or 3.8 liters for $55. Now he sells it for $60. “We have syrup and whether or not we’ll have enough to do us the year is another thing,” said Briggs. “Sales are still good, but it doesn’t mean will have enough to sell all year.”
T&T staff Eric Lewis Headline “N.B. maple syrup producers play the waiting game”
“David Briggs of Rocky Mountain Maple, which has locations in Elgin and in Stilesville, says most of the producers in southeastern N.B. actually did quite well, some having their best seasons ever. “Sometimes it just depends on what side of the hill you’re on or high you are on the hill. (This statement refers to the snowfall amounts in our area)
Asked to make a prediction about the impending season, David Briggs laughs. “Ask me when it’s over,” he says. “I don’t even dare make a prediction.”
Maple syrup products at Legislative Assembly - May 22, 2007
Members of the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association were hosted recently at the Legislative Assembly, where MLAs and staff were presented with maple syrup products. From left: New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association chairman David Briggs; Agriculture and Aquaculture Minister Ronald Ouellette; Natural Resources Minister Donald Arseneault, and association general manager Yvon Poitras.
T&T staff Yvon Gauvin Headline “Maple sap begins to flow”
Yesterday’s warm temperatures halted the sap flow around mid-day, said David Briggs of Rocky Mountain Maple Ltd, in Stilesville outside Moncton city limits. Below freezing temperatures overnight followed by temperatures a few degrees above the freezing mark is what creates pressure on the tree sap making it flow up the tree and into collection pipes and eventually into vats where it is boiled off leaving the familiar maple syrup that people enjoy. It’s a fascinating process with people coming out to sugar camps to watch the boil and maybe the manufacture of maple cream and butter besides sweet candy. Briggs said the company welcomes visitors to their operation with weekends about the bets time to catch them boiling. However, it’s best to call ahead, he said. And while more modern and efficient means of boiling the sap are employed, visitors can still experience the process, taking in the rising aroma-filled steam above a roaring fire. “People crave that” experience, he said. “It’s like making bread the old way.” The operation has an estimated 10,000 trees under production for the season which can last several weeks depending on the weather. “The weather is everything” in his instance, he said. People wanting to visit should call ahead to see when the next boil will be on. The camp is located at the end of the Pat Briggs Road off the Gorge Road. Signs point the way.
T&T staff Pauline Furlong Headline “New Brunswick’s sweet season is upon us Mmm, maple”
David Briggs considered the market carefully before making a decision in 1998 to go into maple production fulltime. “It’s not a product that’s hard to sell,” he says from a Stilesville camp, one of two producing Rocky Mountain Maples. “Everyone seems to love the flavor.” “We use it a lot in cooking,” says David. “It’s a natural sugar that can really be used in just about anything.”
“Four Riverview firefighters returned yesterday from New York City after delivering a distinctively New Brunswick gift to the families of firemen killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.”
“The contribution was maple syrup gift packs that were put together by the members of Riverview Professional Firefighters Local 2549, and given to each of the 343 widows of firefighters killed in the tragedy.”
“He said the maple syrup products for the packs were all bought locally from Rocky Mountain Maple products in Stilesville.”