An error was made in the article “Henderson Sugar Shack: keeping things traditional with a 2021 spin,” which was published in the Feb. 24 edition of The Gleaner in both French and English. It was reported that the present owners of the Henderson Sugar Shack are Claude and Linda Henderson, which is not true. The late Claude Henderson first started serving meals to relatives and neighbours next to the family’s sap boiler in the late 1970s. In 2001, Henderson’s eldest son Éric and Éric’s business partner Linda Hébert took over serving meals at the sugar shack. The Gleaner regrets this error and apologizes to Éric Henderson and Linda Hébert. We wish them all the best for a successful sugar season.
Over the past year, many local gems have had to close their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, sugar season was practically cancelled as it fell right at the start of the initial lockdown. With so many sugar shacks being closed for the season again this year, it’s exciting to hear about the few that are shifting their approach to match the new rules, while still maintaining the traditional syrup season that we know and love.
The Henderson Sugar Shack in Havelock has been around for 20 years, but its history goes back much further. The family has been making maple products since the 19th century. It all started as a way to share products with friends and family, but grew to be bigger and bigger. In 2001, couple Claude and Linda Henderson took over the business and have been running it ever since. This is a small, seasonal, family-run business that attracts many residents of the Valley every year.
Last year, due to the pandemic, the sugar shack had to remain closed for the rest of the season after March 13. This was the first time since the ownership was passed on to Claude and Linda Henderson that the doors were shut. Luckily, because this is a seasonal business, the owners have other jobs throughout the year and were able to stay afloat despite the events of 2020.
Originally, the Hendersons were not sure if the sugar shack would be open at all this year. However, with new government guidelines, they decided to try a new approach. Linda Henderson explains, “We waited for the most recent recommendations from Public Safety. When we heard at the beginning of the year that [lockdown measures] were extended to February, we started thinking about opening after that.” They adapted their traditional model to include takeout, something they have never done before. Henderson says they had a lot to consider: “We started talking about it in the fall, but we decided to wait and see how things would be going. Even if they had opened restaurants and sugar shacks, we’re a buffet so we still wouldn’t have been able to.”
She also mentions that this shift to takeout has been a bit of a whirlwind. “It’s another really big reorganization, trying to figure out the meals, the quantities. It’s not easy.” Their meals include the traditional Quebec sugar shack staples that are so integral to the experience (oreilles de crisse, lots of meats, beans, etc). This new takeout service will be open and available for orders as of March 5.
Henderson also takes a second to emphasize how amazing it has been to receive so much support from the community, saying “people stood in solidarity with us and really encouraged us.” She adds that “with the pandemic, more people are interested in local products. We sold out of maple syrup last year because of this, which is really great.” She also advises people to check out social media to find out ways to support local businesses: “We’re a small sugar shack, so we use a lot of social media. We have a website, but often these days people go more to a Facebook page, so that’s where you can learn a lot more about small businesses.”
It’s great to see the traditions of the Valley adapting to fit our new normal in 2021. Losing any small businesses means losing a part of an area’s identity, so it’s exciting to have places like this sugar shack sticking around through hardships. Henderson expresses immense gratitude for all of their dedicated clients, saying that over the two decades they’ve been in business, “our clientele has really pushed and encouraged us.”
Henderson Sugar Shack, 658 Cowan Rd., Havelock, 450-826-3479.