Wolff’s Apple House has had a history of nourishing the Philadelphia area for over a century, from its beginning as a produce stand to its currently flourishing farm market. Wolff’s is a familiar landmark to people who live in and around Middletown Township, though few people know how much history this market has seen.
How It All Started
To find out how it all started, we go back to the early 20th Century. In 1908, Anne Wolff and her five children moved from Bermuda and bought 24 acres of farmland in Lima, PA. Two years later, her youngest son, Frank, embarked on his dream of becoming a farmer by planting an apple orchard. He was 18. He named his orchard “Sunnybrae Orchards” after a boarding house his mother had run back in Bermuda. Thus, in 1910, Wolff’s was “born.”
As the trees slowly grew larger and more productive, Frank had more fruit than he could sell out of his barn, so, in 1930 he built a small produce stand to sell some of his fresh produce to passersby. Two years later, he built the first permanent structure. It still stands today as the base of the expanding farm market. It now houses our prepared food, dairy items and cash registers along with our bakery and Farmhouse Gift Shop—all right near the original stone fireplace.
Continuing the Tradition
The history continued when Frank’s son Kenneth Wolff started farming as soon as he could walk. As a young man, he worked through the 40s, 50s and 60s, making his father’s orchard his full-time business. During this time, the Wolff family purchased parcels of land adjacent to the original 24 acres and the farm grew to its largest size: 52 acres of apples, peaches, pears, plums and more grown right here on the farm. We even grew vegetables!
In 1972 Frank Wolff passed away, but his son Kenneth proudly carried on the history and continued the family business. The store was then renamed Wolff’s Apple House because apples were always the Wolffs’ main crop. Kenneth, along with his wife Gennie, ran the farm market and orchard through the 70s and 80s, when Wolff’s started selling many products other than the fruit and vegetables they grew. In the early 70s, through circumstances beyond our control, most of the land around the store was sold and eventually became Sunnybrae housing development. Some of the original apple and pear trees are still standing in local residents’ yards!
During the 80s, Ken and Gennie concentrated on selling a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, along with many other products— grocery items, nursery plants and more. In the 90’s, their son Peter Wolff took the helm and grew the business in many ways. He was passionate about gardening, and created the Wolff’s nursery as we know it today. He also forged new relationships with local farmers, expanding our selection of locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Peter’s wife Kris created the farmhouse Gift Shop to round out the store’s offerings.
Wolff’s Apple House Today
Sadly, Peter passed away in the fall of 2015. But his dreams for the store remain alive with his brother Fran Wolff and niece Ashley Pippin running the store. They are the fourth and fifth generations of Wolff’s.
We’ve also hired members of our community who are experts in their fields—Lisa McWaters is our Grocery Manager, Amy Lang is our Plant and Nursery Manager, and all of our team members have become like family. We’re proud to continue our history as a family and community farm market!
As for our land, we always retained a four-acre plot around the orchard, hoping to begin farming it again someday. We have many hopes and dreams for this new era of Wolff’s!