Parks Blueberries Celebrates The Big 4-0

on July 28 | in Ag News | by | with Comments Off on Parks Blueberries Celebrates The Big 4-0

By Allanah Wills @willsallanah

It’s a milestone anniversary year for one local business that got its beginnings in the back of a pickup truck.

It’s a milestone anniversary year for one local business that got its beginnings in the back of a pickup truck.

This weekend, Parks Blueberries in Bothwell will be celebrating 40 years in business.

The establishment was started in the 70s by Bill and Diane Parks. Blueberries were one of Diane’s favourite treats and the pair decided to take several trips to the United States to look into the business of blueberries. According to their son Bruce Parks, the idea of selling blueberries was just a way for them to try their hand at running their own business.

“My parents literally started with 10,000 blueberry plants from Michigan and we sold them on the back gravel road from the back of a Ford F-50 pickup truck and that’s where this entire business started,” explained Bruce. “It was more or less something for my parents to have a little bit of entrepreneurship and their children to have summer jobs. From there it just kind of snowballed.”

The first Parks blueberry plants were purchased in 1977 and cared for in Port Stanley, at a farm that Bill had inherited. However, an opportunity arose to purchase a farm in the Bothwell area in 1979, which has since become the Parks Blueberry location residents have come to know over the last four decades.

It wasn’t long before the location began to grow and the family began to build several additions on the property before purchasing the farmland next door. As they began to get more and more customers, the Parks family started to look at other ways they could serve visitors besides just offerings blueberry picking.

“Lo and behold we had customers saying ‘hey we’d like to have a cup of coffee while we’re out here or maybe a piece of pie,” Bruce said. “Again, a little bit of entrepreneurship, next thing you know we put up a small shed, we’re selling blueberry pies and muffins.”

In 1987, Parks Blueberries added their country store section, inspired by Diane’s love of arts and crafts. Two years later in 1989, the bakery and cafe came to life.

Parks Blueberries
Parks Blueberries
Parks Blueberries
Parks Blueberries
Parks Blueberries
Parks Blueberries
Parks Blueberries

However, the success of the business didn’t come without challenges. In June 1992, the barn was severely damaged by a tornado. A new barn, double the size, was eventually built by Bill and still stands today.

Bruce took over the business in 2013 and grew the farm from 10 acres into 42. He currently owns the farm and business with his wife Hope Parks and the pair continue to grow it.

“It was love and labour. It was a passion that my in-laws had for it,” said Hope. “They’ve started something great, we’re going to continue it.”

Parks Blueberries is home to several employees who have also grown with the company. Tina Alderdice started as a dishwasher in 1996 and eventually worked her way up to a baker position, a role she still holds today in addition to store manager. According to Alderdice, she has seen tremendous growth at Parks in the 23 years that she’s been working there.

“I can tell by batch sizes of the stuff that I make. We used to make pie fill in 30-pound batches and now we make it in 120-pound batches. Everything’s just multiplied and grown,” said Alderdice.

On July 6 and 7 Parks will be having several events to celebrate their 40 years in the municipality. On July 6 there will be a ribbon cutting and birthday cake ceremony at 11 a.m.  July 7 will feature a pie eating contest at 11 a.m. and farm tours throughout the day. For both days there will be a 10 pounds for $40 special on blueberries and no-tax on products at the country store.

“We really do owe a big thanks to all the folks that worked with us over the years to help get the business to where we are,” Bruce said. “We owe a big thanks to my parents for having the vision to start this little entrepreneurship up. And, very grateful to Chatham-Kent for helping us out over the years.”

This weekend, Parks Blueberries in Bothwell will be celebrating 40 years in business.

The establishment was started in the 70s by Bill and Diane Parks. Blueberries were one of Diane’s favourite treats and the pair decided to take several trips to the United States to look into the business of blueberries. According to their son Bruce Parks, the idea of selling blueberries was just a way for them to try their hand at running their own business.

“My parents literally started with 10,000 blueberry plants from Michigan and we sold them on the back gravel road from the back of a Ford F-50 pickup truck and that’s where this entire business started,” explained Bruce. “It was more or less something for my parents to have a little bit of entrepreneurship and their children to have summer jobs. From there it just kind of snowballed.”

The first Parks blueberry plants were purchased in 1977 and cared for in Port Stanley, at a farm that Bill had inherited. However, an opportunity arose to purchase a farm in the Bothwell area in 1979, which has since become the Parks Blueberry location residents have come to know over the last four decades.

It wasn’t long before the location began to grow and the family began to build several additions on the property before purchasing the farmland next door. As they began to get more and more customers, the Parks family started to look at other ways they could serve visitors besides just offerings blueberry picking.

“Lo and behold we had customers saying ‘hey we’d like to have a cup of coffee while we’re out here or maybe a piece of pie,” Bruce said. “Again, a little bit of entrepreneurship, next thing you know we put up a small shed, we’re selling blueberry pies and muffins.”

In 1987, Parks Blueberries added their country store section, inspired by Diane’s love of arts and crafts. Two years later in 1989, the bakery and cafe came to life.

However, the success of the business didn’t come without challenges. In June 1992, the barn was severely damaged by a tornado. A new barn, double the size, was eventually built by Bill and still stands today.

Bruce took over the business in 2013 and grew the farm from 10 acres into 42. He currently owns the farm and business with his wife Hope Parks and the pair continue to grow it.

“It was love and labour. It was a passion that my in-laws had for it,” said Hope. “They’ve started something great, we’re going to continue it.”

Parks Blueberries is home to several employees who have also grown with the company. Tina Alderdice started as a dishwasher in 1996 and eventually worked her way up to a baker position, a role she still holds today in addition to store manager. According to Alderdice, she has seen tremendous growth at Parks in the 23 years that she’s been working there.

“I can tell by batch sizes of the stuff that I make. We used to make pie fill in 30-pound batches and now we make it in 120-pound batches. Everything’s just multiplied and grown,” said Alderdice.

On July 6 and 7 Parks will be having several events to celebrate their 40 years in the municipality. On July 6 there will be a ribbon cutting and birthday cake ceremony at 11 a.m.  July 7 will feature a pie eating contest at 11 a.m. and farm tours throughout the day. For both days there will be a 10 pounds for $40 special on blueberries and no-tax on products at the country store.

“We really do owe a big thanks to all the folks that worked with us over the years to help get the business to where we are,” Bruce said. “We owe a big thanks to my parents for having the vision to start this little entrepreneurship up. And, very grateful to Chatham-Kent for helping us out over the years.”

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