If everything goes as planned, Willcox's popular Apple Annie's Orchard will open year-round beginning next spring.
That's when owners of the longtime u-pick-it farm and orchard hope to open Apple Annie's Country Store in the former Stout's Cider Mill off Interstate 10 in Willcox.
"We're very excited," said Annie Holcomb, who owns Apple Annie's with her husband, John. "We've developed a devoted customer base and this will allow us to serve them year-round."
The Holcombs' daughter, Mandy Kirkendall, said the store could open as early as March 1 or April 1, depending on how fast the family can renovate the sprawling wood-framed building. Kirkendall and her husband, David, are partners in the store with her parents.
"The building needs a lot of work. We are going to be starting pretty much from the the ground up," Kirkendall said Tuesday, a day after the family learned that the city of Willcox, which owned the Stout building, finalized the $175,000 sale.
The store will be a year-round retail outlet for 26-year-old Apple Annie's, selling seasonal produce, pies and baked goods, and jar goods such as fruit preserves, apple butter, syrups and salsas.
Apple Annie's, where consumers pick their own produce and fruit, is now open from late June to Nov. 1.
Kirkendall said renovations will begin as soon as the Stout building closes escrow. The family was assured by city officials that will happen quickly, Kirkendall said.
Kirkendall said they have not estimated any renovation costs, but the work will be extensive.
"From the septic system to the floors and walls, everything needs to be redone," she said. "It's just a shell. I don't even think there's any curtains on the windows."
Stout's Cider Mill closed in April 2011 after 25 years in business. Owners Ron and Corinne Stout posted a note on their website citing the economy as the main factor for closing.
The Holcombs started Apple Annie's in 1986, a decade after settling on a 20-acre plot in Willcox. They had moved from Scottsdale in 1976, built a house and, five years later, planted their first fruit trees, not really knowing what they would do when the trees started bearing fruit.
Holcomb said a California friend suggested they open the orchards to consumers to pick their own fruit, and the family business was effectively launched.
Over the years, the family added 20 acres of orchards and 125 acres of vegetable gardens, which are managed by son Matt Holcomb.
Did you know?
You can get Apple Annie's Orchard breads year-round at all three Tucson area Costco warehouse stores. Local Sprouts Farmers Markets also sell Apple Annie's pies and breads.
"From the septic system to the floors and walls, everything needs to be redone. It's just a shell. I don't even think there's any curtains on the windows."
Annie Holcomb's daughter
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4642.