July 17, 2012
Not long from now, workers will begin to harvest the apple crop. And in years past some of those apples made their way to Leidel’s Apple Stand along Highway 16.
Last year, however, the people who ran that stand retired. Bernie and Rosanne Buehler had run it since 1988, but wanted to travel and spend more time with family. So the apple stand’s future was uncertain.
All of that has changed. And you might recognize the name of the man who’s going to run the stand and open it later this month.
July 28, 2012
LA CRESCENT, MN – One of the area’s most well-known apple stands is now open for the season, after some questions about its future.
Leidel’s Apple Stand in La Crescent opened at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
Even though the Leidel’s have been in the apple business since 1917, the stand had been operated by another family for about the last thirty years.
When they decided to retire last fall, the future of the stand fell into the hands of the youngest Leidel, 21-year-old Mitch.
Mitch decided to graduate a year early from the University of Minnesota and take over the stand.
He said it hasn’t been easy but he’s happy with his decision.
“I think we just want to carry on the tradition of apples in La Crescent. There’s a storied history with La Crosse and the apple industry; particularily my family. There’s almost 100 years that we’re been involved with the history of apples and we weren’t ready to throw in the towel yet. We just really wanted to keep that going,” said Mitch Leidel.
The Leidel’s own an orchard in La Crescent that has not been operational for a number of years.
The family is considering reopening that as well.
July 28, 2012
Leidel’s Apples, which some claim to be the oldest apple orchard in La Crescent, was either going to likely disappear or he would have to operate it.
“There’s a lot of history there, a lot of heritage,” he said. “I heard stories about my grandpa and his passion for the orchard and his pride for the stand. I couldn’t let it all fade away.”
So Mitch finished up college at the University of Minnesota a year early and headed home to the Apple Capital of Minnesota to operate the stand. It opens for the season today.
The family business has been around since 1917, when Mitch’s great-grandfather planted 1,000 apple trees. The operation grew, passed down from one Leidel son to the next until it came to Kevin Leidel, the current owner and Mitch’s father. For more than two decades, Bernie and Rosanne Buehler ran the operation, but the couple retired from the orchard in 2009 and from the stand last year.
Mitch knew the decision would come down to him. His only brother, Erich Leidel, had already graduated college and established himself in the Twin Cities.
“It would have been disappointing if he had not taken it over,” Erich said. “It’s been in the family so long. It would be a shame to see it go. It would be a shame to see all of the hard work and my grandpa’s whole life’s work in shambles.”
Mitch wasn’t planning to return to La Crescent after he finished his bachelor’s degree in finance and entrepreneurial management.
But once he heard the Buehlers were leaving, it wasn’t even a question.
“I knew if I don’t, no one else will, and it ends opportunities here,” he said.
So he moved back in June and has since been preparing for today’s opening.
It’s still a family operation, Mitch said. Everyone chips in on the work, and he heads the day-to-day operations.
After this season, the family will sit down and decide exactly what direction they will take the business. They’ve tossed around ideas like re-opening the orchard or turning it into a vineyard. Erich might eventually come back to La Crescent to partner with his brother at the stand.
Until then, they’ll focus their attention on this year’s stand. And apples — lots and lots of apples.
September 10, 2012
LA CRESCENT, MN – When it appeared the Leidel family apple stand on the south side of La Crescent might not open this year after a 60-year run, Mitch Leidel found he had cider running in his veins and is now its manager.
Growing apples “is in the family. It’s in my blood,” he said.
He enjoys seeing the miracle of a tree bud out during spring and, with some management, produce apples in fall.
Mitch Leidel is the grandson of Victor Leidel, who turned the orchard that he inherited from his father, Henry Leidel, into a major commercial operation. But the family has since sold off part of its orchard land, and Bernie Buehler has managed the rest for more than two decades. When Buehler retired, they quit spraying the crop and doing other work that would make the apples commercially viable.
Buehler did continue operating the stand using apples from other growers.
Last year was Buehler’s final year, leaving the question of who would run the stand, and continue the family business.
“We don’t want either to die out,” said Mitch Leidel.
When growing up, he helped at the orchard and thought maybe he would come back some time. That “some time” became this year.
He finished classes at the University of Minnesota early and came home a few months ago to run the stand with apples from other orchards. The stand is open daily through late October.
He found an apple cider maker from Wisconsin to harvest this year’s crop, giving them some needed cash, and he’s hoping to get the orchard back into operation so he can sell Leidel fruit wholesale and at the stand next year.
His brother, Erich Leidel, already had a career going in the Twin Cities, so he couldn’t come down full time, though he does help, Mitch Leidel said.
“I had a lot more freedom,” he said.
Because of its topography, La Crescent once had about 40 orchards, he said. The smaller ones slowly closed, leaving only seven big ones that sell wholesale.
Though La Crescent has fewer orchards, “there’s still a pretty rich history around here,” he said. “I want to maintain that rich history, the same thing (as) my grandfather. He spent his life doing this.”
Leidel chose a tough year to start. Though the crop tastes good, a hard frost in May wiped out maybe half the crop locally, he said. That means a lot less fruit, and higher prices.
He has some important help, however. One of his workers is his mother, Renee Leidel, who’s regular job is with Dairyland Power Cooperative.
It took them a while to reverse roles and have the son gives directions to his mother. But it’s working, both said.
“Am I proud of him?” his mother said. “Oh, my gosh, yes.”
“I think we make a very good team,” her son said.
September 13, 2012
LA CRESCENT, MN (WXOW) – Business is good at Leidel’s Apple Stand in La Crescent according to its new owner.
You may remember the stand was set to close when operators Bernie and Rosanne Buehler retired last fall. They had run the stand since 1988.
Mitch Leidel was not ready to let the family history go. His great, great grandfather secured the land for the first Leidel’s Apple Orchard in the 1860′s. So he changed his plans, graduated early from the University of Minnesota and returned to La Crescent to make sure the stand would open again this summer.
He says he’s enjoying the business and learning a lot. And, he says it’s great to see people who have support the stand, in some cases, for 60 years.
Leidel says it was a difficult spring and challenging summer. The result – a smaller crop of apples. But he says he likes to tell customers while the quantity is low, the quality is high.
Leidel’s Apple Stand is offering a number of varieties right now. The stand is open weekdays from 10 until 6 except Tuesday when it’s closed. Leidel’s is open weekends from 9 until 6.
September 28, 2012
The goal is not only see the business continue but also to expand and grow. With the help of friends, family, the community, and the Lord it seems very likely there is a future!