It’s 24 hours before Valentine’s Day and Patricia Page can feel the momentum building.
The phone is ringing more frequently and there’s a noticeable uptick in walk-in traffic at The Apple Trolley.
By Thursday, customers will be cramming the shop on U.S. 2 East in Evergreen in search of the business’ signature gourmet caramel apples and a wide array of other sweets that range from chocolate-dipped strawberries to bouquets of edible roses.
After six years in business, Page and her daughter, Joy Guttenberg, who runs a second Apple Trolley store in Glasgow, know the ebb and flow of the specialty treat business.
Holidays are without a doubt The Apple Trolley’s time to shine, Page said. And each holiday brings special designer apples.
The Valentine’s Day specialty caramel apple flavors — strawberry cheesecake and strawberry champagne (yes, there’s a hint of the bubbly in the drizzle) — will make way for apple varieties featuring Irish creme and Andes mints. By Mother’s Day the apples will include a sumptuous dark pomegranate flavor.
Year-round The Apple Trolley has a broad selection of caramel apples. The turtle apples, laden with pecans and chocolate in addition to caramel, are the top seller. Some feature crushed Oreos, Butterfinger pieces or M&Ms; others have graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon and taste like apple pie.
The Apple Trolley got its start at the 2007 Bigfork Relay for Life event when Page and her daughter, who both worked at Flathead Bank, wanted a special fundraising treat for the event.
“We didn’t want to do cookies or cakes, so we made caramel apples, and we sold out in two hours,” Page recalled.
By February 2008 the mother-daughter team had a shop up and running in Bigfork. They began setting up at holiday craft shows, too, to maximize their exposure. The Apple Trolley is a regular at the Taste of Home shows and the Christmas bazaar at Hooper’s Garden Center.
A couple of years ago Page’s daughter, an avid hunter, moved to Glasgow. She married her hunting guide and is expecting a baby in April. Guttenberg bought out Page two years ago. Page continues to manage the Flathead store, which relocated from Bigfork to U.S. 2 East in 2010.
Caramel for the apples is made from scratch in the shop’s commercial kitchen. The chocolate is shipped in bulk from an out-of-state family business and the Granny Smith apples are grown in Washington.
Special events such as weddings and birthday parties are other niches The Apple Barrel caters to.
Not all the treats are aimed at women. The shop has boxes of chocolates with fishing, golf and carpentry themes. Custom orders are popular, Page said, noting that a local sports team asked for treats with a soccer ball theme.
The store’s website, at www.appletrolley.com, has been a great addition for the business, Page said, because customers can browse online and get an idea of the variety of products for sale. The Apple Trolley has a mail-order component, and orders also can be called in for pick-up.
Guys looking for a last-minute Valentine may want to consider the “Diva Bouquet,” a white chocolate ensemble featuring hearts that say “Princess, Angel, Diva, Cutie and Superstar.”
And women looking for the perfect something for their man can say “I love you” with the “Moose Bouquet” filled with milk and dark chocolate moose heads.
The Apple Trolley is located at 2624 U.S. 2 East; call 257-1998 or go online at www.appletrolley.com.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at email@example.com.
Caramel-dipped apples are a specialty at The Apple Trolley.
Pat Page uses only a microwave and a hot plate to make caramel apples Monday afternoon at The Apple Trolley in Evergreen.