BELOIT - Residents who have visited the Apple Hut in the past are in for a sweet surprise this fall. The orchard is reconstructing the interior of the barn to improve operations.
When the Apple Hut, 1718 W. Walters Road, opens for the season on Aug. 30, the new barn will feature vaulted ceilings, new floors, and more space due to interior walls being removed. Owner Lori Jenson said the renovations just had to be done, and with this year's mild winter, they were able to begin the project back in January.
"We took everything down to the stud work," Jenson said. "It's been a long summer and a challenge, but we're pleased with it. We're tickled pink, and we hope our customers like it as well."
She said the renovations were due to she and her husband, John, wanting a little more working room for sorting apples and wanting better customer flow.
"When the parking lot is full, and there are cars on either sides of the road and there's standing room only in here, it's pretty busy," Jenson said.
The orchard has 1,600 trees on about 8.5 acres of land. Community members will have 17 varieties of apples to choose from, with three different kinds of apples ready to pick when the orchard first opens. Jenson said prime picking time is from about the second week in September through mid-October.
"We have a big crop," Jenson said. "It's going to be good."
She said there was some hail damage this year, which nearly every orchard in the state dealt with.
"The weather was just crazy this summer," Jenson said. "You can't control the hail, so it is what it is. We do use our apples in our pies. So you peel them away, and they're good as new."
He said insects have been a problem, but it hasn't had a large effect on the crop. However, with massive amounts of rainfall, Jenson said they've had to constantly mow the lawn.
The renovations are coming at the perfect time. On Sept. 16, the Apple Hut is hosting the Hope at the Hut fundraiser for pancreatic cancer awareness, which both of Jenson's parents passed away from during a three year period. Jenson and her three sisters are planning the fundraiser.
"There's a lot of fun things going on that day. Of course, purple is the theme, because purple is the color for pancreas cancer," Jenson said.
With her parents' wedding anniversary occurring in September, there will be purple cotton candy, grape floats and a food tent with brats, hamburgers, etc., with all of the proceeds going to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, along with a portion of the apple cider donut sales also going to the charity.
The Apple Hut's original orchard was purchased in 1979 by Jenson's parents, who had a small barn and a hobby for picking and selling apples. Now, the business is Jenson's full time work, with an operation of selling cider donuts, jams, jellies, sources, pumpkin and apple butter, baked and frozen pies, honey, turnovers, pumpkins, squash, gifts and apple cider.
For those looking to pick apples on opening day zestar, paula red and ginger gold apples should be ready to pick. The Apple Hut is open daily from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., but is closed on Mondays. The hut is typically open until late October to early November.