COVID Creativity - Gould Hill Farm, Hopkinton

Capitalizing on the outdoors was key to survival

Business Name: Gould Hill Farm
Client Name: Amy and Tim Bassett 
Website: http://www.gouldhillfarm.com/ 
SBDC Advisor: Chuck Gilboy

In February 2020, Amy and Tim Bassett of Gould Hill Farm had just begun working with business advisors at the NH SBDC to talk about plans for expanding their business, which they had bought ten years before, to include a restaurant. 

Then the pandemic happened.  

view from Gould Hill farm with apple blossoms

“Yep, we had one meeting and an email with them, and BOOM! COVID hit,” Tim said.   “We had been facing a $10,000 weekend (Maple Sugaring Weekend), and, instead, we went into quiet mode, asking ourselves, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

What they did was get advice from Julie Glosner, their SBDC advisor, who brought in colleague Warren Daniel, another advisor with restaurant expertise. The Bassetts’ bank had originally recommended they seek counsel from SBDC. “To get advice from them and to bounce ideas off them, to get connected to others who had been here before,” Amy said. “It was great.”

But, instead of restaurant advice, they got advice on how their business could survive.  

Julie guided Gould Hill farm tto the EIDL program. Gould Hill and their other business, Contoocook Cider Company, each received an EIDL loan. “It was a lifesaver because, guess what, we still had bills to pay at that time,” Tim said. 

So Amy and Tim began to rethink what their year might look like. They weren’t going to open a restaurant just yet, but they already ran a viable pick-your-own and farm store business, and a tasting room for their own farm-made hard cider.  Fall and its apple-picking activities were usually crush time for them. When life opened up a bit after the first lockdown, they realized the great outdoors was going to be the answer. That was where they had to expand. 

The loans enabled them to expand a patio and outdoor seating area for the tasting room, to add signage, and to “buy a lot of plexiglass.” Ultimately, they added five new staff for Contoocook Cider.

Gould Hill apple trees

No longer did customers come into the tasting room. Instead, staff came out to deliver the flights of ciders. Ordering became contactless. “We did everything to give the customers peace of mind. They could ring into the bar area from their seats and order,” Tim explained.

“People were desperate for outside activities and fun,” Amy said. “We did what we could to steer everything outside. Thank goodness the weather was with us. People love to come out here and see our views that stretch for 80 miles on a clear day.”

“In kind of a funny way, COVID forced us to rethink our operation for the cider room for the fall, and for the pick-your-own side,” Tim said. “We did not expect to have the summer and fall we ended up having.”

peaches nectarines in crates

Picking peaches at Gould Hill had always been popular. “But this year, we’d never seen this many people in the summer.  We knew that meant fall was going to be quite busy,” Tim said.

We talk about planning, and [our business advisor has] been very, very helpful....Having SBDC has given us peace of mind. Just being the unique small business that we are, to find this resource for tailor-made advice, and to meet with somebody who can take us to the next level…it has just all worked out. 
- Tim & Amy Bassett, Gould Hill Farm

Their loans went to keep the operation going and to hire staff. Early on, they were able to keep up with canning their cider, which they sold to some restaurants and retail outlets.  At one point they needed three or four more employees for the farm side.  

The Bassetts now work with SBDC advisor Chuck Gilboy, and they recently  applied for and received a PPP loan. Chuck is working with them to apply for their 2nd Draw PPP loan, since the deadline has been extended to May 31st.

Tim says they talk with Chuck often about new opportunities and any new ideas they have. “We talk about planning, and he’s been very, very helpful.  We were in such a panic when COVID hit.  Having SBDC has given us peace of mind.”

Gould Hill view

Amy agrees.  “Just being the unique small business that we are, to find this resource for tailor-made advice, and to meet with somebody who can take us to the next level…it has just all worked out.” 

And the restaurant idea?

“It’s still something we’ve got going around in our heads,” Tim said. Staffing, licensing, space and permits will be issues they have to resolve.  “We definitely think there’s an opportunity,” Tim said. “It has to be unique and a real draw because we’re off the beaten path.  We know we can go strong September through October. We’re trying to figure out May through September.”

This client story is part of NH SBDC's ongoing collection of COVID Creativity stories about businesses surviving and thriving during COVID-19.