It’s a Saturday afternoon in July here in Chapel Hill and it is hot. We’re talking 95 degrees with humidity so tennis with Dad is not really an option. It’s a climate that calls for relaxation and refreshment. On days like this, many Chapel Hill locals unwind at the famous Maple View Farm. With a porch-front view of the cows and crops that produce the very ice cream they sell, Maple View Farm has a history even richer than their frozen delight.
It all started in 1963, when Farmer Bob Nutter, the founder of Maple View Farm, decided that his dairy farming business in Maine needed a change of landscape. Intrigued by North Carolina’s higher number of growing seasons, Nutter became interested in North Carolina. It was only after a routine cattle sale in Virginia, where Nutter learned that a farm was for sale in Chapel Hill, that he realized he had found a home for his family and business.
Once settled in Chapel Hill, the Nutter family resumed their dairy business. They sold their dairy products to a co-op, as most farmers did in that time. However, as the milk market seemed to change so rapidly, Farmer Bob knew that he needed to change his business strategy. It was in the late 90’s that the Nutter family researched the idea of producing their own milk and bottling it themselves, rather than through a third party. As a result, the Nutter family founded the Maple View Farm Milk Company in 1996.
After a few successful seasons, Maple View Farm found their success in skim milk, which left them with excess cream. Farmer Bob originally sold this excess cream to outside sources; however, he and his daughter thought of the idea of using the cream to make their own ice cream. Drum roll please…. In January 1st, 2001, the Nutter Family founded their ice cream business, which we all know today as Maple View Farm Ice Cream.
As manager and partner Allison Nichols-Clapper describes, Maple View soon found themselves with a large problem after they opened their ice cream business – their location. The physical storefront of Maple View Ice Cream is on the outskirts of Orange County, where the nearest grocery store is around 25 minutes away. They are surrounded by endless farms on a deserted one-lane road with no surrounding retail stores. Needless to say, this store is in the middle of nowhere. At first, Allison explains how Maple View struggled with their geographic barrier. The store struggled to attract customers willing to make the drive. However, as more hungry customers became acclimated with their ice cream, Maple View slowly gained attention. Eventually, Maple View became so famous because of its location. Rather than a simple pass-by ice cream stop, Maple View became a destination for fun and relaxation. It became a landmark that customers had to plan in advance to travel to, making the overall experience much more satisfying and enjoyable.
Today, Maple View Farms has become an icon in the tristate area. North Carolinians from all over the state come down to visit this famous ice cream store. Before his passing, Dean Smith frequently came down to Maple View to get his favorite Root Beer float. Even after discontinuing this particular treat, Maple View always kept a small stash for the UNC legend whenever he came to visit.
It’s easy to see past the desserts and treats that Maple View offers, but this place represents much more than we think. It represents hard work and determination that the Nutter Family demonstrated to make this establishment as great as it is today. It represents their successful adaption to difficult circumstances and environments. Most importantly, Maple View Farm represents a Chapel Hill lifestyle that many of us proudly share- that sometimes sitting with friends and family eating ice cream is the most valuable treat of all.
Photos by Kenan Bateman & Catherine Ayres