The pioneer town of Cashmere in Central Washington is best known for Aplets and Cotlets, but there's much more to explore including new wine-tasting rooms, a distillery and an old-fashioned cider mill.
Stroll along the streets in the Central Washington town of Cashmere, and it won’t be long before you pick up the scent of sugar and fruit coming from the kitchens of Liberty Orchards, a storefront factory known for jellied confections called Aplets and Cotlets.
That is, unless you wander instead into the Mission District, and poke around inside an old fruit-packing warehouse. There you might catch a whiff of corn whiskey or roasted coffee while shopping for vintage salt and pepper shakers and sampling local wines.
Tucked away along the Wenatchee River off a busy highway just east of the Bavarian -themed town of Leavenworth, Cashmere combines a bit of Mayberry — “The “Andy Griffith Show’s” neat-as-a-pin slice of small-town Americana — with a sprinkling of retro cool.
New wine bars and cafes share the town with family-owned bakeries, a hardware store and a 99-year-old pharmacy, the kinds of businesses replaced by big-box stores in other communities.
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“Everyone spends about a day to a day-and-a-half in Leavenworth, and then they ask themselves, ‘What else is there to do?,’ ” said Christy Pease, owner of Junkyard Gypsy’s 2nd Hand Bargain Oasis, a Mission District shop filled with vintage furniture and collectibles. “So Cashmere is starting to grow.”
Aplets, Cotlets and more
Visitors arrive by the busload at Liberty Orchards for the 10-minute factory tour and free samples of its candies made from local apples and apricots.
Third-generation owners have spiffed up the tasting room and store over the years, but the operation runs much the way it did in the 1920s when two young Armenian orchardists, looking for new ways to use their surplus fruit, began manufacturing “locoum” — the eastern Mediterranean candy known as Turkish delight.
Clouds of powdered sugar fill a two-room factory visible from the street. Employees dressed in white work a small assembly line, hand-packing boxes for shipping around the country. Two streets — Aplets Way and Cotlets Avenue — carry the names of its signature products.
“Realistically, Aplets and Cotlets are what put Cashmere on the map,” said Marcia Green, owner of the Mission Creek Cider Mill, producer of a line of nonalcoholic ciders called Lady Blush. “Having yet more to do here, we all benefit.”
Green and her husband, Kyle, bought their farm next to a creek a few miles from town in 2005. They set about turning the orchard and mill into a destination, bringing in local musicians and stocking a country-style tasting room with their fruit ciders and other local products.
Visitors can picnic by the water, or watch the Greens make cider on days the mill is running. One of their newest creations is a cider infused with lavender. Cider tastings are free, but for $3.95, the apple butter milkshake is hard to resist.
Consolidation of the region’s apple- and pear-packing business has left Central Washington with a glut of empty fruit warehouses in search of new uses.
East of Liberty Orchards is Cashmere’s Mission District where Mission Square, a new retail development in a block-long former pear-packing shed, includes a winery, four tasting rooms, a craft distillery, coffee roaster and pub.
The district takes its name from Cashmere’s original name, “Mission,” named in 1873 for a log church built by a Catholic priest. When the post office kept mixing up the mail with another Washington town by the same name, a local judge suggested renaming it after the Vale of Kashmir, an apple-growing area surrounded by the Himalaya Mountains.
“This is basically recycled everything,” said Mission Square developer Jay Byers. He pointed out wall posts fashioned from telephone poles and cedar boards left over from the fruit-packing days.
One of his newest tenants, Brian Ropp, owner of Wine Design, sells clocks and tables made from old wine barrels. Devils Gulch Drinkery, named for a local mountain bike trail, serves local microbrews and wines in a bar decorated like a farmhouse kitchen with comfy chairs and walls covered with wood from an old fence.
At the distillery and tasting room It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, Colin Levi and his partner, Eric Lunstrum, offer samples of their Block & Tackle moonshine, a corn whiskey they make in a German copper still from corn grown in Quincy. For fall, the pair plan to make brandies distilled from local cherries and Yakima grapes.
Cashmere’s reputation as an authentic slice of Americana comes together on tree-lined Cottage Avenue. Anchoring one end is a tiny business district with old-fashioned bakeries and a combination pizza parlor/bowling alley with four league-sized lanes. On the other are rows of early 1900s-era Craftsman-style bungalows.
Pick up a free walking tour map at the Cashmere Museum. Take some time to explore its display of Native American artifacts and basement display of vintage corn shellers and musical instruments donated by locals.
Next door is Pioneer Village, an outdoor collection of 20 original buildings, many built in the 1800s with logs skidded down from the hills. Peek inside the former Great Northern Railroad ticket office at the dusty leather suitcases piled in the corner, and the barbershop with signs advertising haircuts for 15 cents.
A must-stop is the soda fountain at Doane’s Valley Pharmacy, in business at 119 Cottage Ave. since 1912.
Noticing a sidewalk sign advertising ice-cream specials, I went in and found Kim Phillips behind the counter, making blackberry sodas with the flare of a sommelier pouring a fine wine.
“It takes time to blend and it needs to breathe,” she said, filling a tall glass with seltzer and syrup. “So if you’re in a hurry, it’s probably not the best thing to order.”
She discourages to-go orders, preferring customers pull up a chair and chat.
“I think we’ve been able to maintain a hometown feel,” Phillips says of Cashmere, her home for 30 years.
“We’re happy when tourists pass through, but we haven’t become a tourist town. You can walk the streets, and still find whatever you need.”
Carol Pucci: firstname.lastname@example.org