Owners of Blake Hill Preserves Win U.S. Small Business Award | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Owners of Blake Hill Preserves Win U.S. Small Business Award

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Joe Hanglin and Vicky Allard of Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Joe Hanglin and Vicky Allard of Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor
The married founders of a southern Vermont company that formed almost inadvertently — and grew with deliberation — were recently named the Vermont Small Business Persons of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Vicky Allard and Joe Hanglin of Grafton started Blake Hill Preserves in 2009, after a houseguest dropped off a jar of their blackberry-apple jam at the Grafton Village Store when he went to buy the Sunday newspaper. The apples were from trees on their land, and the berries grew on bushes surrounding their 19th-century farmhouse.

From their first account with that store, Allard and Hanglin grew their home-based jam-making business into a 45-person company in Windsor.  In Blake Hill’s early years, the couple sold their jams at the local farmers market on Saturday mornings. Their awarding-winning jams and marmalades — sweet, savory and spicy — are now available at stores across the nation, online and at their shop in Windsor, which offers tastings and jam flights.
Blake Hill Preserves - COURTESY
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  • Blake Hill Preserves

“When we started making jam, we used to make it in small copper pots,” explained Allard, 55, who grew up in England’s Hampshire County. Four pots a day would yield 120 jars of jam, she said. Production has increased to 10,000 jars on a busy day,  according to Allard.



“It feels that we’re the same business we were when we started,” she said. “Just making a lot more jam.”

Allard and Hanglin, who’s from Gibraltar, met at Cardiff University in Wales and have been together since they were 18. They married in 1999, the year they moved to New York City to work in corporate risk management. She arrived in the U.S. by airplane ahead of her husband, who sailed across the Atlantic on a 36-foot boat.

They purchased their Grafton farm as a weekend home in 2005. Allard picked berries and botanicals to make jams, a multigenerational family tradition. Each Sunday, when they headed back to the city, “it was heart-wrenching,” Allard recalled.

In 2012, the couple decided to make Grafton their permanent home, and Blake Hill, a full-time business. They ran the business from their farm for four years before opening the Windsor production facility.  Since establishing the business in Windsor, Blake Hill has grown from 10 employees to 45 — and the company seeks to add more staff, Allard said.

"We love to feel that this is a collaborative effort, and we encourage everybody to think of new creations and ideas — or cool new ways to use the jams," she said.

The small business award is “an honor for our team as a whole,”  Allard said. “We feel super honored that we were both nominated, and then we were chosen to represent a lot of amazing Vermont businesses.”