Maple Dude brings personality, passion to Clark County syrup business
TOWN OF LYNN - Tim Sternitzky pulled out a bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup and put his index finger by the ingredients.
"There's a whole lot of stuff on here that I can't even pronounce and don't even know what it is," he said.
A sixth-generation maple syrup maker, Sternitzky says his Maple Dude syrup is all natural and has only one ingredient: maple sap.
Sternitzky says his great-great-great-great- grandfather, Fredrick Sternitzky, was one of the first settlers in the Town of Lynn (Clark County) nearly 160 years ago and was "the original Maple Dude." Fredrick Sternitzky started making maple syrup as a hobby, and the family continued to make it "backyard-style," or primitively, Tim Sternitzky said.
Sternitzky says he has been helping to make maple syrup as long as he can remember, learning from his dad Ernie and grandpa Herbert. He did it as a hobby until 2012, and then it grew to the point he needed to expand to a new building in 2014.
While still paying homage to the business's history with its slogan, "Keeping it real since 1858," Sternitzky has invested in machines and new technology to become more efficient and to produce a higher yield, he said.
"I enjoyed making syrup from the start and it can be done on many levels," he said. "It can be back-woodsy and small operations, but I had to modernize it and invest to make it viable."
Sternitzky makes all of his syrup on his town of Lynn property over a four-to-six-week period, typically starting in early March.
After collecting the sap from the trees, Sternitzky sends it through his reverse osmosis machine where the machine pumps the sap at very high pressure into a membrane-style filter. About two-thirds of the water can be removed from the sap during this process, which reduces the amount of boiling that needs to be done. The reduced boiling equals reduced energy costs, Sternitzky said.
RELATED: Maple Fall Fest
Then the sap goes into the evaporator and is boiled to remove water until it reaches 67% sugar, which is known as maple syrup. Sternitzky's evaporator cooks the sap and then a filter press filters the syrup. After that he bottles the syrup.
Sternitzky has seen business grow rapidly over the last three years and he now sells his pure Maple Dude syrup across the United States and even to Brazil. It can be purchased at Festival Foods and Pick 'n Save locations locally as well as Meijer Grocery stores.
In addition to maple syrup, Sternitzky also sells syrup machine supplies, maple cotton candy, maple cream, pancake mix, bison meat and even The Maple Dude shirts and hats out of his store at W1417 US Hwy 10, in the town of Lynn.
"As an entrepreneur it isn't easy hearing 'no' all the time, but you've got to keep trying," he said. "Especially if you have a passion for it. You know trying to get grocery store chains, wholesalers, restaurants ... you can't be afraid to knock on their door. It's mainly persistence and not giving up."
When asked about the business's name, Sternitzky said he wanted to come up with something that was memorable and catchy.
"Initially The Maple Dude was on different social media accounts, and I just decided I'd call my business that. I'm like the sixth-generation Maple Dude," he said.
He also uses social media to help promote his business and so people can get to know him better. He makes funny videos to post on Facebook, including one in which he put maple cream on his face as an example of how to use his products. No, it doesn't really exfoliate the skin, he joked.
"My main social media campaign is on Facebook as The Maple Dude, and I just try to put stuff on there that's entertaining and just try to push products and try to entertain people," he said.
Sternitzky will have many of his products available at Maple Fall Fest this weekend in Marshfield at Wildwood Zoo, including his maple cotton candy. To find out more, visit The Maple Dude on Facebook. His store hours vary but is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.