The only thing Wyndridge Farm really had going for it when Steve and Julie Groff bought it in 2000 was the view.
But thanks to a $2.1 million small-business loan, coupled with a lot of the York Township couple’s own money, the farm on Pleasant Avenue is on the cusp of becoming a one-of-a-kind venue in York County.
“It’s a multipronged agritourism project,” Steve Groff said.
A barn that dates to around 1900 is being converted and expanded to create 23,000 square feet of space. That will include a main room that can accommodate 275, a tasting room, a craft-brew pub, a gourmet kitchen and other rooms.
The Groffs have hired a wedding planner and an event planner to help fill the space.
But folks who want to just stop by the 77-acre farm can check out the on-site cidery and soon-to-be-built craft brewery. Music festivals or other outdoor events could happen at some point.
Meanwhile, the farm still grows corn, hay and other crops; there’s even a corn maze in the fall, Steve Groff said.
“We want to become a Mid-Atlantic destination,” he said. “And with the services we have, we can be. We can be an economic engine for the community.”
Steve Groff was an orthopedic surgeon and president of OSS Health. Julie was a nurse. They raised three kids on the farm, as well as crops, black Angus cattle and even some horses. It was a bit of a throwback to Steve’s youth on a Lancaster County dairy farm.
But then Steve was in a bicycle crash that led the Groffs to reconsider their direction. As empty-nesters who still had a good amount of business knowledge, they decided to embark on the agritourism project.
Things started last year with a limited winery license and a cidery shoved into a small bank barn up the driveway from the main barn and farmhouse. Cider maker Scott Topel helped create the drink with juice from Brown’s Orchard, which is outside Loganville.
Wyndridge Crafty Cider has been sold at York Central Market since December. It’s now in 40 retail locations in Pennsylvania and Maryland, as well as being sold at the farm. Sales have tripled each month, Steve Groff said. Plans are in place to begin distributing in a six-county region around Philadelphia in the coming months.
That’s thanks in part to a craft-brewery license the couple received this month. Not only will that let them distribute their cider, but the couple has also hired a master brewer for craft beer. The four-vessel, 30-barrel automated operation will be run out of the soon-to-be complete addition on the main barn. Specialty sodas — root beer, fruit sodas, ginger ale, cream ale — will be part of the operation.
The barn is insulated and will have an HVAC system — a rarity in the business, the Groffs said. Total capacity for the entire renovated space will be 504. One of the unusual things about the space will be the kitchen, which will open onto the tasting room, the Groffs said.
They hired Matt Seigmund, former executive chef at the Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley, Md., to run the kitchen and offer an “eating experience.”
Though they’ve not made their own cider, beer or gourmet food, the Groffs said they have the experience that gives them the confidence to do this. They declined to say how much of their own money they’ve invested.
“It’s become our life’s work,” Steve Groff said.
So far, at least two weddings are booked for the venue, as well as a reunion, a scholastic sports banquet and other events. They hired Gavin Advertising of York to help promote the project.
The plan is to have 20 to 30 people working at the site in two years. And the goal is to be profitable in nine to 15 months.
“It will depend on our bookings. Sooner or later, we’ll be able to stop the burn,” Steve Groff said.
How it’s made
For years, the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau has been trying to marry the idea of industry and tourism, said spokesman Brent Burkey.
“York County is the factory tour capital of the world,” he said. “Central to that tourism offering is seeing how products are made, getting to see how they come to life, and getting to know the people who make them.”
From that idea, the bureau has also created the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail for local wineries and the Susquehanna Valley Ale Trail for local craft breweries.
“It’s an educational experience, along with a product to consume,” Burkey said.
Wyndridge is a great extension of the idea while adding in venue space, he said.
“We’re glad to see the further expansion of the agriculture and artisan experience in York County,” he said.
Julie Groff grew up in the Dallastown Area School District and used to drive past the old barn she and her husband, Steve, now own every day on her way to school.
“It really was ugly,” she said of the barn that was built around 1900.
But she and her husband eventually were sold on the property, partly because of Steve’s youth on a Lancaster County dairy farm and partly because of the view.
On the first ridge, just up the driveway from the barn and the original farmhouse, the couple built a sprawling house with stone that matches the foundation of the barn. And that house sits on a ridge that looks over rolling hills and treelines in southern York County.
“When he told me he about this place, I said, ‘Are you sure?’” Julie Groff recalled. “Then he said, ‘Just wait until you see the view.’
“Then I was sold.”