Peaks of Otter Winery & Johnson’s Orchards work through pandemic and weather

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BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — Many local businesses have had to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as Virginia approaches Phase Three on July 1, businesses are still feeling the impacts of closures earlier in the year.

Danny Johnson, one of the owners of Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnson’s Orchards, has had to make a lot of changes to the business. At first, the winery and shop was curbside pickup only for much of April. On May 16, Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnson’s Orchards welcomed people back to their grounds for outside service.

“We have to do everything we can to be able to keep it going,” Johnson said.

However, the transition hasn’t been easy. Johnson and the other owners rely on the winery during the year until the peaches and apples start coming in June.

“When it struck, all of a sudden ⁠— boom— business went to nothing here.”

The weather hasn’t necessarily been kind to the orchard. A few early freezes and rainy weather in May impacted early- and mid-varieties of peaches. Freezing conditions also caused frost rings to appear on some of the apples in the orchard. Half of the orchard’s plums were killed due to the weather and the apricots were impacted, as well.

There will still be plenty of fruits for people to choose from as they grow in.

“The blackberries are coming along that look fairly good. They seemed to survive fairly well. The cherries did well, but it’s going to be a little bit tight on the rest of them,” Johnson said.

The business owner is thankful that they haven’t gotten sick, but there’s still some catching up to do during these tough times.

“We’re trying to get caught up here,” he said. “We had our employees furloughed and we’re bringing them back slowly to, hopefully, justify enough people coming out. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Meanwhile, social distancing is encouraged on the winery’s grounds. No parties of more than 10 guests are allowed and all parties must be socially distanced from other parties at all times. Only a certain amount of people are allowed inside the store at a time.

Even as guidelines are lifted or changed, Johnson says he plans on continuing social distancing at the business.

“We’re going to try to keep social distance this year at all times,” Johnson remarked. “That’s very important, I think, no matter where we are.”

While they do not require face masks inside the shop, Johnson asks people to consider wearing them. Inside the shop is a “face mask tree”, where people can grab a free mask if they have forgot their’s or don’t have one.

“We pay for the face masks, but we’ve had a lot of people contribute to those face masks,” Johnson said. “Customers that come in appreciate the fact that people can get free face mask here and not have to pay for them.”

The health and safety of customers and employees is important to the staff at Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnson’s Orchards.

“We’re surviving the virus,” Johnson said. “We’re thankful for all the people coming out, that do come out. We’re thankful that we haven’t gotten sick.”

Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnson’s Orchards are open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and on weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. by appointment.

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