BALLSTON LAKE — Originally established in 1948, this year marks Lakeside Farms’ 75th anniversary as a family-run business.
Lakeside was founded by Robert Pearce, along with his wife Agnes and son Dick, their website states. The family began making apple cider with a screw-driven press originally built in 1878, said Jeffrey Pearce, who is part of the third generation of the Pearce family to run the business.
Today, Lakeside includes a country store, restaurant, apple barn, gift shop, event space, and more, with Pearce saying Lakeside is “like 11 businesses all wrapped in one.”
“My grandfather always told me, ‘You put out a good product for a good, fair price, they’ll come knocking on your door,’” said Pearce. “I’ve always kept it that way.”
Pearce said he has been working at Lakeside for almost 60 of its 75 years, beginning as a young child working under his father, Dick Pearce.
“I just started to work, and my father gave me things to do at eight years old,” said Pearce. “I just worked up from there.”
The Pearce family moved Lakeside’s country store to the property’s carriage barn in the early 1960s, Pearce said.
“My grandparents started the cider mill, and put in a little store down back behind the store that’s already here,” Pearce said. “As we got bigger, we moved to the carriage barn, which is where it’s at right now.”
Today, Jeffrey Pearce operates the farm with his brother, Richie. Jeffrey’s wife, Denise, also works at Lakeside, while Jeffrey and Richie’s sister, Lisa Martin, works part-time at the farm.
In addition to their apple cider, Lakeside Farms includes a country store that offers a wide variety of products, such as fruits, vegetables, maple syrup, penny candy, and more. The country store also includes a deli, a bakery, and restaurant, roasting their own meat and selling a variety of burgers and sandwiches, and other products including bread, baked goods, and eggs.
The farm’s restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and they offer a wide selection of apples, apple cider, and apple cider donuts from their apple barn.
Lakeside also includes Ye Olde Farmhouse Gift Shoppe, a farmhouse built in 1851, Pearce said, that was converted into a shop offering an assortment of gifts, decorations, clothing, jewelry, candles, and more, many of which are locally or American-made.
Lakeside served 130,000 people in nine months last year, Pearce said. He noted their apple barn has recently opened for the fall season. The apple barn and gift shop will remain open through Dec. 24, while the remainder of the property will remain open through Nov. 26, according to Denise Pearce.
While Pearce acknowledged it is demanding work, putting in up to 90 or 100 hours a week, he also said it is fulfilling, and said he has “been treated very well.”
“Yesterday I got up at 3:00, and got home last night at 5:30,” Pearce said. “It’s a long day, but when you get to see what you’ve accomplished during the day, you smile.”
He also added that, “The business runs you, you don’t run it.”
“Sit back, look, and listen, and the business will tell you what has to be done,” said Pearce. “You work it, but it tells you what has to be done.”
Through the years, Pearce said that in addition to family and employees, the farm has also received help from friends and neighbors, such as Lee Davenport, who Pearce said worked for Lakeside roughly 20 years ago and still returns to assist the Pearce family and their employees.
“He went out on his own, and he comes back and helps me,” Pearce said. “He’s like a brother to me.”
Pearce gave credit to the farm’s employees, saying, “They put their heart and soul into it.”
“If you’ve got people that are positive with you, I’ve got a few people that are, it makes it a lot easier,” said Pearce. “It’s nice to have people that love your business as much as you do.”