How David and Ann Marie Thornton transformed an empty ice cream stand into a business with a fringe benefit

By Jim Moriarty • Photograph by Laura Gingerich

If you’re going to grow a business from the ground up, you might as well get a good buzz out of it. When Dr. David Thornton and his wife, Ann Marie, turned some of the same varieties of Southern heirloom apples George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had at Mount Vernon and Monticello into hard ciders of their own creation, the experiment blossomed into a cottage industry that could make your head whirl like Auntie Em’s house.

Crates of ripe Grimes Goldens, a fruit with roots dating back to 1790 and Johnny Appleseed, sit under the open-air shelter beside the cider house that, in a previous life, had been the Ferguson farm produce and ice cream stand on Old U.S. 1. The Thorntons’ F350 Super Duty truck is parked nearby, the door wide open so they can hear Nickel Creek on the sound system. Assisted by Erin Knight, who studied agriculture at the University of Vermont, they slice the apples by hand, carving out the bad spots. They dip them in a tub filled with water and a soupçon of bleach to discourage any natural yeasts, then rinse them off with a hose and feed them rapid fire down the metal throat of a crusher as if they were tossing rocks into a wishing well. Cut. Dip. Rinse. Grind. Repeat. The bluegrass mandolin is drowned out by the heavy metal symphony of grinding. Tiny shards of apple fly about like sweet, sticky shrapnel as a 5-gallon bucket fills with mashed pulp. They pour bucket after bucket into a cylindrical silver hydraulic press that, like a vertical colander, squeezes out the juice.

“This will be at least a two shirt-crushing,” says Dave. The old ice cream stand, now a constant 60 degrees, is the lab where they test pH, measure sulfites and add the yeast of their choice, maybe English cider or white wine. “Dave is in charge of microbial control,” says Ann Marie of their “picobrewery,” as she laughingly calls it. The pasteurizing is done in a tank behind the building. The old produce stand fronting the orchards the Thorntons now own is where they put the labels on the bottles with a hand crank machine, 10 in a minute, 1,200 on a weekend on the way to bottling a couple thousand gallons for the season. “I really am the chief cook and bottle washer,” says Ann Marie.

It’s the first season the Thorntons have been able to sell their cider commercially. Previously, they stayed under the legal limit and confined themselves to lighting up local happenings like Stoneybrook or the foxhunt and hanging out a shingle or two at the odd farmers market. Now, they’ll be producing two brands of hard cider, James Creek Cider House, made strictly from their own apples, and Stargazer, which will be a more adventurous version of the hard ciders familiar to most consumers’ taste buds.

“Our James Creek will be a very wine-like cider, refined, dry and relatively higher in alcohol content, about 8 or 8 1/2 percent,” says Ann Marie. “Stargazer is a little bit more on the craft beer, inventive side.” It’s where the Thorntons can get their freak on, blending in a hint of peach, blackberry, ginger, pretty much whatever they feel like. “For Stargazer we press our apples, we press apples from other growers, and we also bought juice. The Stargazer is themed with constellations. Prowling Peach is Leo. He’s a summer constellation. A lot of great apples ripen in October when Orion is high in the sky, so it will be Orion the Mighty Hunter. We might do a blend with persimmon for winter. Stinger for Scorpio. Something like that. I think we’ll have blueberry in the spring.”

Two of their ciders have won prizes in the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. (Yes, there are cider conventions.) Last year they attended CiderCON in Portland, Oregon. “Physician conferences look pretty bleak compared to cider conferences,” says Dave. “I used to think doctors partied. These guys are having fun.”

The Thorntons aren’t trying to become the Angry Orchard of the East. “If we come out with a good quality product that gets people engaged and just keep it local, then we will have met our goals,” says Dave. “We love this land. We love the countryside. Having something we can use the land for and creating something new is part of the challenge.”

Originally published in Pinestraw October 2016
To read the entire article visit

NOTE: James Creek Ciderhouse sells primarily at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and select bottle shops in Moore County and the Triangle, including:
• Beer Durham – Durham
• Roses Meat Market and Sweet Shop – Durham
• Triangle Wine – Southern Pines
• The Wine Cellar and Tasting Room – Southern Pines

Stargazer Cider is also carried by a number of restaurants and pubs:
• Ashten’s – Southern Pines
• Drum and Quill – Pinehurst
• The Restaurant and Roof at the Durham – Durham
• The Sly Fox – Southern Pines
• Southern Pines Brewing Company – Southern Pines

The Sandhills region of North Carolina is a magical place to play golf seems like a presumptuous website address but when you consider all that the Pinehurst region of North Carolina entails, it’s somewhat justified. Within the United States no place can match its place in the sport of golf. It is THE Home of American Golf.

Through more than a century of golf history, almost every great player in the game has visited or competed in the Sandhills region, and many, many of the sport’s greatest championships have been played here.

The Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen areas are not just for elite golfers, though, this is a place where everyone can enjoy a beautiful landscape and amenities beyond your expectations. Even if you don’t play golf, it has a lot to offer, and just may entice you into trying the game. More than three dozen golf courses provide that opportunity and it’s hard to find a weak one in the bunch.

Settlers arrived in this region almost 250 years ago but the roots of its current reputation began in the late 1800’s with the establishment of the iconic Pinehurst Resort by James Walker Tufts. He matched his New England roots with Southern Charms, enlisting the designer of New York’s Central Park to lay out the Village of Pinehurst. He then tapped Donald Ross as his man to bring golf to the area, a task Ross would make his passion until his passing in 1948.
But, as much as his town is about the past, it is also about making new milestones that will become a part of history. In 2014, they hosted both the Men’ and Women’s United States Open here, and each day visitors create and renew an admiration for the place, its people, and what it offers.

Where To Play

This is as loaded of a question as they come. Many will gravitate to the Pinehurst Resort and their nine golf courses but there are plenty of other fairways that will draw our admiration.

The iconic No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort was Ross’ masterpiece. Living alongside the course he would tinker on the layout until his death. Its beauty is undeniable, as is its place in architectural lore. That said, don’t ignore the chance to play the #8 course which pays homage to Ross. Gil Hanse is also leaving his touch on the property. The designer just completed work on a new short course and is embarking on a remake on the #4 course.

Those seeking more of Ross’ handiwork will want to consider a stop at Mid Pines and Pine Needles. Both built in the late 1920’s, they are a testament to the timeless nature of his designs. Recent work has also made them even more true to the original intent of Mr. Ross.

Recently re-worked with a new vision, Talamore now has wider fairways, improved turf, and has implemented a series of sod-wall bunkers that will make you feel as if you were in Scotland.
No matter your golfing design preference, you can find all these, and much more within a fifteen-minute drive. It’s a golfer’s dream.

Places To Stay

Throughout Moore County there are more than 3000 rooms for rent. They range from the luxurious Carolina Inn and the other Pinehurst Resort related properties such as the Manor Inn and the Holly Inn, to chain hotels.

For those who appreciate historic flavour they should also consider the Canadian-owned Magnolia Inn, and The Jefferson Inn which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation.

For those travelling with a group, cottage and condos are available across the county. Houses of all sizes can also accommodate your family or travelling companions.

What is unique in Pinehurst is that you will find that hotel design styles and decor are often in keeping with the historic nature of the village. It gives it a cohesive and authentic feel.

Meals & More

The local food scene continues to grow in the region and whether you prefer a quick morning coffee in Pinehurst Village (The Roast Office), wood-fired pizza (E-Italia in Southern Pines) or fresh pastries (The BAKEHOUSE in Aberdeen) you can find your sweet spot.

Must See

Golf architecture fans will be awed by the living canvases that Donald Ross worked on during his time in the Sandhills but there is no better place to study his designs than the Tufts Archives.

Located in the back of the Pinehurst village library, on display are many artifacts that tell the story of this region, one where golf has been at its core. You can examine the original drawings from all of Donald Ross’ work from around the world. It’s a captivating place to spend many hours.

More To Come

Despite an unhurried pace there is more to come in the Sandhills. Continued course renovations, the hosting of the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open (Pine Needles), and a new Craft Brew Pub and Brewery in the original Pinehurst power plant are on the horizon.

They celebrate the past here, but also embrace the future. It’s the reason I return as often as possible and why you should consider a visit.

This article originally appeared on, September 4, 2017 – By Scott MacLeod

Have you ever been charged with the job of planning a business meeting, convention, wedding, reunion, or any other type of event that requires meeting space? An excellent starting point, which unfortunately is often times over looked, is your local Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). The CVB wants your meeting or event to be successful and has the resources to make that happen.

How? CVB’s offer many services that will save you time and money but they can do so much more and generally the services are free. Listed below are some of the services available to you:

• The CVB will help coordinate many aspects of your meeting – beginning with special rates and availability from the accommodations in the area. The CVB sales staff will create a Request for Proposal (RFP) listing all of your meeting needs, which will be sent to the various hotels, motels, or resorts geared toward your type of meeting. This creates a “competitive bid” environment, which will help insure that you get the best value and options to chose from.

• After the RFPs have been reviewed, the CVB’s Sales Department can arrange a site inspection of the hotels, motels or resorts of your choice. The CVB will schedule the entire agenda for you – including visits to each hotel or resort as well as meetings with other vendors such as audio-visual companies and transportation providers.

• Marketing your meeting – After the hotel or resort has been chosen, the CVB specializes in helping you with promotion and publicity to encourage your attendees to come to their city. You will have access to a variety of tools to increase attendance at your meeting including; Destination brochures, links to the CVB web site with information on local entertainment, restaurants, and other attractions that might encourage potential attendees to register. Armed with contact information for the local media, including newspapers, radio and TV stations provided by the CVB’s Marketing Department, you’ll have the right avenues for media releases and important event information.

These services are just the beginning of the CVB offerings. After you have chosen the hotel or resort for your meeting, the CVB then goes to work for you finding:

• Transportation – Does your meeting require information on which transportation companies are local and available? The CVB can provide information on the type of vehicles the company offers ie. Buses, vans, cars, limos, etc. as well as assist you in negotiating special rates for your meeting or event.

• Local Tours – A database of all local attractions, hours of operation, fees, etc. is available at the CVB. They can also provide contacts for local tour companies and step-on-guide services.

• Entertainment – You will find Information on Speakers, reliable disk jockeys, bands and other entertainment options readily available at the CVB.

• Photography – Will you need suggestions on local photographers or digital photography to enhance pre-mailers or registration materials? The CVB maintains a library of photos for brochures and meeting programs as well as lists of local and regional photographers.

• Welcome to the Area – Presentations to your meeting by a local dignitary can be arranged by the CVB. Most CVBs also provide promotional Welcome Packets to your attendees upon arrival as well as a special Welcome Letter specific to your meeting.

So to maximize the effectiveness of your meeting, partner with your destination’s CVB to blend the attractions of your destination with the theme of your event or educational program – it will make your job easier and your meeting or event more successful.


Beverly Stewart
VP of Sales – CVB Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area

Pinehurst to open The Cradle, its new 9-hole short course, on September 30

Upon seeing the first golf course built in Pinehurst, founder James Walker Tufts was struck by how naturally the game fit into the landscape in front of him. “Golf experts and all those who cherish the hope of becoming such will find excellent opportunity to indulge in the game at Pinehurst,” Tufts remarked wistfully in 1898.

On September 30, nearly 120 years after golf arrived at Pinehurst, the historic resort will open The Cradle, a nine-hole short course that even the newest to the game can enjoy. Designed by golf architect Gil Hanse, The Cradle, at 789 yards, features holes ranging from 56 to 127 yards. Mere steps from the Resort Clubhouse, it is the same area where, in 1898, Dr. Leroy Culver carved the first nine holes out of the sand at Pinehurst.

“Pinehurst’s place in golf goes back almost as far as the time the game was first introduced in America,” says Pinehurst Owner and CEO Bob Dedman Jr. “As we embark on the latest era at Pinehurst, it’s symbolic that our newest course sits on the same ground as the original first holes of golf at Pinehurst. We look forward to watching players of all ages and all abilities enjoy golf at The Cradle.”

Following Harry Vardon’s 1900 exhibition at Pinehurst, the area attracted the best players and countless enthusiasts. Visitors were so taken with the Pinehurst way they insisted on bringing it to their hometowns. The game was exported so broadly that Pinehurst became known as the Cradle of American Golf.

Hanse’s design incorporates the native sandscape and wiregrass common to the original courses of Pinehurst. With holes that meander along the rolling terrain, The Cradle’s greens subtly blend into the surrounding landscape and are protected by rough-hewn bunkers, all features that have long been hallmarks of Pinehurst golf.

“The beauty of golf at Pinehurst is that it is very natural, traditional and classic, especially architecturally,” says Hanse, whose restoration credits include projects at The Country Club, Los Angeles Country Club, Merion Golf Club and Oakland Hills Country Club as well as the original design work of The Olympic Golf Course in Brazil. “That Pinehurst character, we believe, permeates through The Cradle. These nine little golf holes are on a historic piece of land, and we feel like each hole has its own identity that fosters the creativity golfers have enjoyed here for more than a century.”

Greens fees for The Cradle are $50 this fall, and will vary seasonably. Kids 17 and under play free when accompanied by a paying adult, and resort guests may book tee times in advance. Public tee times are available 24 hours in advance. Tee times can be made by calling 1-800-ITS-GOLF.

Bordering The Cradle will be Pinehurst’s expanded putting course Thistle Dhu, which surrounds the Putter Boy statue. At 75,000 square feet, the new Thistle Dhu is four times larger than the original putting course built in 2012, with rolling hills and sweeping valleys sure to delight golfers of all kinds. Thistle Dhu, which will open in early October, will be free to play.

The Cradle logo features the Golf Lad, an iconic figure featured in original advertising for the resort and most recently used in the logo for the U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateur Championships at Pinehurst. In the Cradle logo, the Lad is shown resting comfortably in the nook of the letter “C.

“Like the Putter Boy, who now overlooks play on The Cradle, the Golf Lad has been a lasting symbol of the genuine joy and passion for golf at Pinehurst since the game arrived,” says Pinehurst President Tom Pashley. “We hope golfers will share those same feelings on a short course designed to be fun and challenging while at the same time inspiring others to take up the game we all love.”

The opening of The Cradle and expansion of Thistle Dhu are two elements of a multiyear plan Pinehurst unveiled in November 2016. Following the successful opening of the Deuce, a new tavern overlooking the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst announced it hired Hanse to build the short course and begin a redesign of Pinehurst No. 4. Hanse will break ground on the No. 4 redesign in October.

For more information and high-resolution images of The Cradle and its logo, please visit