Farm-to-city: Lyman Orchards to open pie-baking operation in New Haven

A Middlefield-based apple orchard company is moving some of its pie-baking business to New Haven, after purchasing three industrial buildings in Wooster Square and Long Wharf for $3 million.

That company is Lyman Farm Incorporated — better known as Lyman Orchards — which has been growing apples and selling fruit pies from its Middlefield farm for the past nearly three centuries.

According to the city land records database, on Dec. 20, the Lyman-controlled holding company Middlefield Real Estate Holdings LLC purchased the industrial, storage, and warehouse buildings at 724 Grand Ave., 106 Food Terminal Plaza, and 108 Food Terminal Plaza for $3 million. 

The city last appraised those three properties as worth a combined total of $3,462,900.

The buildings themselves formerly housed the local bakery company Something Sweet, which filed for bankruptcy last summer. Lyman Farm bought the properties from a holding company controlled by Something Sweet’s Mary Ann Montesano.

Lyman Farm Executive Vice-President John Lyman said in an interview that his company plans on relocating its wholesale pie business from its Apple Barrel facility in Middlefield to the newly acquired New Haven properties.

“We’ve outgrown our space,” he said. 

For the past year and a half, Lyman’s been looking for ​“off-site production locations” within a 30-mile radius of Middlefield. When his company saw that Something Sweet had filed for bankruptcy, he said, they zeroed in on these New Haven properties as the ideal spot to set up business.

Lyman said that the Grand Avenue and Food Terminal Plaza properties will host two different pie-production set ups.

The Grand Avenue facility will be home to Lyman’s new cream-filled pie business, which includes pumpkin pies. That facility has been up and running since late December, Lyman said. He said roughly 15 employees are currently working out of that Grand Avenue site.

The Food Terminal Plaza properties, meanwhile, will be home to Lyman’s fruit-filled pie production. That work should begin towards the end of January.

In total, he said, the two sites should employ roughly 50 people in New Haven — including many of the people who formerly worked at Something Sweet.

What kinds of work will be taking place at these two New Haven pie-production sites?

“You start with the dough making, then lay it into the pans,” Lyman said. ​“Then it’s baked, and then you go through a process of filling.

“Then, depending on the pie, there’s another brief bake for the topping, to brown it.

“Then you take it to a spiral freezer to freeze it.”

Then Lyman packages the pies and sells them as a frozen product to the end customer — such as the Big Y supermarket chain.

Customers won’t be able to just walk up to these sites and buy a pie fresh out of the oven.

These are ​“strictly production facilities,” he said, with ​“no retail capacity.” Customers interested in buying a Lyman pie to eat then and there still have to go to the Middlefield site for that.

Lyman said his company distributes pies all throughout the region, as far south as ​“the Carolinas” and as far west as eastern Pennsylvania. 

Buying these existing New Haven industrial bakery facilities means that Lyman didn’t have to construct its own new buildings, which would have taken at least a year or two, he said.

“This is a way to make a quick move to get up to another level where we needed to be.”

In a phone interview with the Independent Friday morning, Something Sweet’s former owner Joe Montesano said that he and his wife Mary Ann decided to sell the properties because they’re planning on retiring soon and didn’t want to stick around as landlords.

He said his former company first moved to New Haven back in 1997, setting up shop first in the Long Wharf facility, and then on Grand Avenue by 2000.

Asked about some of his favorite foods Something Sweet made during its time in New Haven, he said, ​“We started out making pudding pies with whipped cream on top. Sold it to every customer we had. That’s really what launched us.”

Then there came the lemon meringue pie. Soon thereafter followed crumb cakes and coffee cakes and pumpkin pies.

“It was fun,” he said. ​“New Haven was a great business to have a business.”

He said he continued to own Something Sweet until 2010, when he sold the company to a venture capital firm after getting sick and decided he need to figure out a succession plan for the company. He stuck around with Something Sweet until 2017, and when he left, he said, ​“It went downhill pretty quickly. They brought in a new CEO, went very deep into debt. I think Covid was the last straw.”

Ultimately, that venture capital firm filed for bankruptcy in the summer of 2021. Leading to Lyman’s purchase of the business, and the properties, and their plans to reinvigorate the Long Wharf and Wooster Square sites with new pie-making life.


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