A family maple syrup business in Vermont's Addison County is back up and running, after a costly crime that almost forced it to close.
This week, steam has been billowing from Alan and Cindy Mayer's sugarhouse in Bristol, as they boil down freshly-gathered sap into Vermont's famous maple syrup.
"It's been quite a journey," Cindy Mayer remarked of the rough months the couple has had.
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Last November, axe-wielding vandals broke into their Bristol property, puncturing drums holding 340 gallons of their valuable product, spilling the syrup everywhere.
"Every time you touch something, you stick to it," Mayer told necn in November of 2017, as he showed the news station his syrup-covered floor.
The vandals also smashed critical equipment. All told, the crime was a more than $40,000 hit to both lost syrup and to equipment that needed replacing, the couple said.
Four months later, the Mayers are now back at the sideline job to their printing business, thanks to new purchases, a lot of work, and a used evaporator on loan from their equipment dealer, CDL.
A permanent replacement evaporator is expected to arrive this summer, the couple said.
"We did think, at some point, that, 'Oh my god, this is not worth it. It's just too much,'" Cindy Mayer told necn.
"I've been sugaring for well over 30 years now. I really enjoy it," Alan Mayer said in response to a question about why he did not quit his business. "I enjoy getting out in the woods, working on the lines, tapping the trees."
The couple also said they did not want to disappoint fans of their product — namely friends, family, and loyal customers — including shoppers at an annual craft show in Weston.
However, after the replacement system got up and running, Alan Mayer, who's also a volunteer fire chief, would still face more challenges.
He said headaches came first from this season’s wild weather swings that have been tough on sap flows. Then, Mayer said he was hit by yet another crime.
"Three weeks ago, unfortunately, we were broken into again, had some rather expensive equipment stolen that night," Alan Mayer said, adding that Vermont State Police have told him they're investigating a string of thefts around Addison County.
A call from necn seeking more information from the Vermont State Police New Haven barracks was not returned by the station's news deadline Thursday afternoon.
For now, the Mayers said several new security measures are in place at their sugarhouse.
After this sour spell, the couple is optimistic for a sweet finish to the spring tradition Vermonters so cherish.
"We've made some nice syrup," Alan Mayer said. "Very nice-flavored syrup this year."