Doles Orchard in Limington is known as a place to pick your own apples and blueberries, not source decorative wooden snowflakes. But about six years ago, the Bunting family, which owns the orchard, quietly launched its Box Shop and began making custom boxes for breweries, wineries and gift packaging – and that eventually led to the snowflakes.

The idea sprang from an arrangement the orchard had selling Balaton and Montmorency cherries – two varieties of sour cherries – to Allagash Brewing Co. in century-old apple boxes that were beginning to fall apart. (Allagash uses the cherries in several beers, including Coolship Cerise, Pick Your Own and Nancy Ale, named after Nancy Bunting, one of the owners of Doles Orchard.)

One winter, when things were slow at the orchard, employees began building new boxes to deliver the cherries, according to Emily Chelate, a Bunting family member who runs the Box Shop. The folks at Allagash fell in love with the boxes and wanted more to display and sell, she said.

More than 7,000 Allagash crates later, the orchard got into the box business and bought a laser machine so it could take other large orders and customize smaller orders. The orchard’s Box Shop now has full-time, year-round employees, and no one on the farm has to get a winter job. Chelate has expanded the business into retail gift boxes and small gift items such as the delicate snowflakes.

Chelate began making the snowflakes in early November, when she was just “playing around” with the laser machine.

She didn’t intend them to be a Christmas item, but her snowflakes make great ornaments, and are generic enough that they can be used all winter. After Christmas is over, just take it off your tree and hang it in a window.

The three-dimensional snowflakes, which are 4 inches across, are made from 8-inch Baltic birch plywood. Some are plain wood, others have a finish that looks like a dusting of snow. Some have a silver finish, some gold.

“I want to do a mini version, but I haven’t figured out how to package it,” Chelate said. “They’re somewhat delicate.”

The Box Shop has only just begun selling its retail products online, and the snowflakes are so new they are not yet listed on the site. The only place to buy them, for now, is at Lisa Marie’s Made in Maine stores, where they cost $19.99.

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