Renovations are scheduled to begin this month on a new retail store for a 27-year old Willcox area business.

Apple Annie’s Orchard is “branching out,” having bought the former Stout’s Cider Mill in order to open its own country store.

The family-owned business bought the building off Exit 340 from the City of Willcox in November to have a retail space open year-round.

 “We are thrilled to expand our business to be open all year,” said Anne Holcomb, who owns Apple Annie’s with husband, John.

“Customers have been asking us to do this for years, so when the opportunity to purchase this building came up it was the perfect solution,” she said.

That “opportunity” presented itself after the Willcox City Council decided at its Sept. 19, 2012 meeting to let the City go out for bids on the sale of 1510 N. Circle I Road.

When the bids were opened Nov. 9, 2012, there was only one there -- the $175,111 bid by the Holcombs, together with their daughter, Mandy Kirkendall.

City Council voted to accept that bid at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.

At that time, the building had neither a septic tank nor any connection to the City’s sewer system.

 “We are working with Stamback Septic on the septic issues,” said Kirkendall, adding that they are “almost done getting all the permits issued, and that work will begin ASAP. We look forward to being open.”

The building was previously occupied by another long-standing business in the community – Stout’s Cider Mill, which also sold apple products.

A Willcox landmark and roadside attraction for 22 years, Stout’s ended its lease with the City and shut its doors in May of 2011.

At the time, owners Ron and Corrine Stout cited the “uncertainty of the economy,” as well the rising price of commodities, and the fact that their apple orchard was destroyed by a herd of deer about two years earlier.

The owners of Apple Annie’s, however, seem undaunted by that sad chapter in the building’s history.

“We are absolutely optimistic,” said Kirkendall, adding, “Besides all the local support, we have a large customer base in Tucson and other surrounding towns who are very excited about the year-round location, plus the freeway traffic.”

"We are really excited to see our new neighbors,” said Alan Baker, executive director of the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

“Apple Annie's having a store in this location is a perfect fit, and will meet a need and will enhance the whole experience for the public,” he told the Range News.

“It is great to see a local business expanding.”

“I think the only difficulty will be not going over there and buying goodies every day,” said Baker, referring to the new store’s close proximity to the Chamber’s Visitor’s Center.

With “Apple Annie’s Country Store” set to open in early spring, customers can look forward to their “famous pies (whole to take home or by the slice to enjoy during your visit), popular home-made apple bread, fudge, jarred goodies, and country gifts,” in addition to seasonal produce and veggies, she said.

“We look forward to more locals visiting us at our new location,” Kirkendall told the Range News.

Apple Annie’s Orchard is about 5.5 miles out of town, off Fort Grant Road, while its “Produce and Pumpkins” location is another six miles beyond that.

Its new Country Store will be located within the city limits.

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