Combining the artisanal and entrepreneurial for success

Marti Austin, Retail Manager, Cold Hollow Cider Mill – Waterbury, VT

Feature | Waterbury, VT | 09 September 2021
Retail Manager Marti Austin is still very passionate about her work at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill even after for 20 years. Marti believes that good people skills, boundless energy and working in multi-generational teams adds great value to their success. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Traveling towards Stowe on a winding road cutting through the Green Mountains, you will find a celebrated Vermont institution: the Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

This working mill is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions, a top producer of quality fresh apple cider, and just a quick ride away from the iconic Ben and Jerry’s factory.” On a beautiful summer day, with a bustle of tourists arriving constantly to purchase Vermont’s specialty foods and products, we meet long time employee and retail manager, Marti Austin.

“I basically manage and head up all things retail here. I deal with all the buying, the staffing, the merchandising, and the general well-being of the retail end of this business,” Marty says. “I have been here 20 years and I love it!” she exclaims. “It’s a great fit, a nice place to work, the owners are wonderful, and the staff is great. It’s a good job and I am lucky.”

After spending years working in the ski industry, which is mostly seasonal, Austin needed to supplement her income with another job. The opportunity to work part time at Cold Hollow Cider Mill presented itself and as Marti says, “the rest is history.”

The cider mill is open year-round, seven days a week, from 8am-6pm, and only closes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. To do her job Marti highlights the various skills that are necessary, especially at a place with a busy schedule.

“People skills are key, and you need to be energetic in dealing with the public,” she says. “You need to be on your feet for long hours and you need to be a multi-tasker because there is always going to be something coming around the corner,” Marti stresses. Additionally, speaking another language like Spanish that Marti does, comes in very handy to communicate with the many international tourists that come to visit.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill produces an award-winning fresh apple cider that is made the old-fashioned way using a traditional rack and cloth press process dating back to the 1920s. Their legendary cider doughnuts are the main attraction and are made fresh every day in big numbers with the old-fashioned doughnut robot machines.

The apple cider is made using the vintage traditional rack and cloth press from the 1920s. Many tourists come from all over and enjoy watching this unique and rarely seen technique, and they also get a chance to have a free taste of the award-winning beverage. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
While the award-winning products are made using old fashioned methods, as far as the use of “new” technology goes Marti says it impacts her work and the business “in a small way.”

“In this particular place, I would say that our technology would be more computer based in the systems,” she shares. “We’ve gone from these very old-fashioned cash registers where everything was manually done, and we used paper trails to keep track of things, to now using a state-of-the-art point of sale system,” Austin says. She adds that her job has changed as she “now relies on the technology of this system,” to perform her role.

“I'm old enough that I didn't grow up with computers, so whenever I have a glitch, I call a high school kid to my desk to help me,” Marti laughs. “But on the plus side, I know how to count money without a calculator and tell time the old-fashioned way without a digital clock, and they can’t,” she says with satisfaction and a wide grin. “It’s really interesting and I love working with a multi-generational staff,” Austin says of the team there.

She acknowledges that there are many great advantages to being well versed and up-to-date on all the latest technology, but she says she is apprehensive about people, particularly young people, becoming too dependent on it. “I find it a little frightening in a sense because if everything crashes, they're going to be at a standstill.”

“Everything is technology with them, everything is high-speed, and they're so over programmed with their sports and their school activities and whatnot. I'm kind of worried for them. They're just missing out on a lot of things that we all took for granted,” Marti stresses.

On the cider mill grounds, tourists can watch apple cider being made with the vintage rack and cloth press. Watching the hundreds of delicious cider doughnuts churned out daily with the doughnut robot, is another treat to view along with all the baking of other goods for the bakery on site.

The donut “robot” churns out hundreds of the famed cider donuts a day. While the apple cider and donuts are made using “old technology” Austin says that new technology is used mostly for the transactional part of the business. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
The honeybees which help pollinate the apple orchards, can be seen behind the glass at the honey corner section of the mill. For some of Vermont’s freshest homemade foods and sandwiches, as well as Cold Hollow’s hard cider, the Apple Core Luncheonette is the perfect spot. Finally, the shop carries specialty foods and products from local entrepreneurs for sampling and purchasing.

As a buyer for the retail store, Marti says a big part of their business model is sourcing and empowering local companies and entrepreneurs. “I deal with a lot of little companies, and some of these are businesses people run out of their home. They might have another job, but they make hot sauce, or mustard or something else. I'm always on the hunt and I'll go to farmers markets and look for new stuff.”

In discussing what work means to her, Marti says, “Work means a lot to me. It’s an obligation and a responsibility. My first and foremost, responsibility is to my myself and my husband and our life together. This is my second and I take it very seriously.”

When asked about what works means to her, Marti said that “it's an important part of everyone's life. It doesn't matter what you do, it’s a part of who you are.” Just then another big group of tourists arrive, and Marti, with a big smile and thanking us for coming, heads to the front door to greet the new arrivals.