The Orchard Shop, Then and Now
Today we know The Orchard Shop for its collection of local art and other exciting finds. But the origins of the unique store go way back to an orphanage more than 100 years ago.
Children of the Delaware County Orphanage, which was located on the southeast corner of what is now Minnetrista’s East Lawn, tended and sold produce from the orchard to earn money. When the orphanage moved west of Muncie in 1906, Frank C. Ball purchased the entire site, including the approximately ten-acre orchard.
Ball hired Rowland Webb to manage Minnetrista Orchards in 1917. Webb had worked in a Michigan greenhouse before moving to Indiana in 1914. He cared for the orchard and other gardens for the next 60 years.
The “Johnny Appleseed of Muncie” made good use of his time here. According to Director of Collections, Karen Vincent, Webb introduced several new varieties of apples to the Muncie area, including the Keswick and Cox’s Orange Pippen. He also tended to other fruit trees, like cherry, pear, plum, and peach.
Now, decades after his retirement, school children relive the legacy of Webb’s orchard by participating in the Johnny Appleseed tour at Minnetrista, learning about apples and enjoying freshly pressed cider. The community looks forward to the fall season for this reason.
“Every year, our September announcement that the first gallon of cider has just been pressed and is ready to sell generates excitement and a rush through the door that reminds us exactly how strong a tradition can become,” said Molly Harty, Retail Manager of The Orchard Shop.
Friends and family also take part in the tradition by visiting our Farmers Market and The Orchard Shop. Webb and his crew sold cider from a barn for many fall seasons.
When plans were in development for Minnetrista in the mid-1980s, the founders chose to continue these sales in The Orchard Shop. According to a 1987 memo, the purpose of the shop was “To provide a very unique opportunity for visitors to purchase fruit, food, crafts and sundries in a country ‘barn’ type environment.” The new Orchard Shop opened for the fall season in mid-October 1987.
It became a year-round operation in 2000, the same year of the very first Farmers Market at Minnetrista. Since then, the shop has become a staple at Minnetrista.
“Our guests love coming here to buy local products to give as gifts for a twofold reason,” Harty said. “They enjoy supporting their local economy and they love the personal connection that feels like they’re giving a little piece of their home to the people they care about.”
Harty tries to run The Orchard Shop with the same ideals the Ball Brothers Company used when it opened Ball Stores in 1934. She said the management saw the store as “a civic institution notable for completeness and beauty that expects to make friendliness its watchword.”
“We celebrate the beauty, fun, learning, and excitement that goes on at Minnetrista and our absolute highest priority is making guests feel like they’re among friends the moment they walk through our doors,” Harty said. “The shop is more than a store–it’s a place to celebrate the history and uniqueness that is Muncie.”
The shop is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Make sure to visit the store that has something for everyone!