Small business aid celebrated with visit to sugarhouse

From left, interim director at the North Country Small Business Development Center Angel Smith, owners and operators of Black Rooster Maple Kristy and Kirk Bassarab and their daughter Reilly, U.S. Small Business Administration Syracuse District Director Bernard Paprocki and Keene town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson Jr. cut a ribbon celebrating National Small Business Development Center Day. They also commemorated the Bassarabs’ new sugarhouse they installed in fall 2017. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

KEENE — Entrepreneurs across the country celebrated National Small Business Development Center Day Tuesday.

The North Country Small Business Development Center and the Syracuse District of the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized the day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Black Rooster Maple sugarhouse in Keene.

Black Rooster Maple initially had only a small sugarhouse capable of processing syrup from 1,000 tree taps. Owner and operator Kirk Bassarab said if two people were in the old sugarhouse at once, it would’ve been one-and-a-half too many.

In the fall, with help from the SBDC, the SBA and Community Bank, Black Rooster set up its new sugarhouse with a modern evaporator and reverse osmosis machines. The new sugarhouse currently draws from 3,500 taps but is capable of processing from 15,000 taps, according to Bassarab.

The North Country SBDC is a federally funded group that helps between 400 and 500 small entrepreneurs in the area with marketing, business counseling and data research. The services are generally free, excluding some intensive workshops.

“We’ll take an entrepreneur or small business owner at any point in time,” said North County SBDC interim director Angela Smith, “and basically we sit together, they’ll tell us what they’re working on, we identify next steps together, and we’ll help to provide information so that they can move their project forward.

“Initially, [Black Rooster] only had the very, very small sugarhouse, and now they have a brand-new, larger facility with better equipment.”

This weekend is also the second week of Maple Weekend in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, where people can experience firsthand what goes into making maple syrup at various sugarhouses.