Chelmsford's Cooking Buckets Sugarhouse Is A Sweet Side Job

Photo: Chaiel Schaffel/WBZ NewsRadio

CHELMSFORD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Cooking Buckets Sugarhouse has entered its 10th maple season, and the owner, Jamie Dergay, may not be making huge profits, but he has enjoyed the process.

The unusual name, Cooking Buckets, comes from his niece, said Dergay. “When I started out, we used to just hang buckets all around the neighborhood.”

One day, his two-year-old niece saw one of the buckets around town and said, “Uncle Jamie is cooking his buckets.” And the company's name was born.

Photo: Chaiel Schaffel/WBZ NewsRadio

Dergay started the company with a friend in 2014, and every year they have around 300 taps on maple trees around town. This year, Dergay said they have about 275 taps.

When he began the sugarhouse, Dergay drove around Chelmsford, and when he saw a maple tree in someone’s yard, he would knock on their door and ask if he could tap their trees.

He said that over the years a few people may not have answered, but he has never been told no to tapping people's maple trees.

People are usually excited to be a part of the process, said Dergay. “There’s something about sugaring that people are really drawn to.”

Photo: Chaiel Schaffel/WBZ NewsRadio

“It’s hard work. It takes a lot of time, and it’s labor intensive to collect that many buckets," especially when hundreds of taps were spread around town.

These days, the maple taps are more consolidated, explained Dergay. He added that his taps are now at a single location.

Even now, however, most of the trees that he taps are not on his property. So he trades permission to tap from the homeowner for finished maple syrup.

“We couldn’t do what we do without folks in town allowing us to tap their trees.”

Photo: Chaiel Schaffel/WBZ NewsRadio

Running Cooking Buckets Sugarhouse isn't Dergay's only job, however.

He works full-time as the director of financial aid at a trade school in Boston called North Bennet Street School.

But during the height of maple season, there is usually a lot of work to do at the sugarhouse.

“It’s not uncommon to boil for eight to 10 hours when the sap is running," said Dergay, explaining part of the sugaring process.

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However, with a more mild winter like this year and with temperatures staying above freezing lately, Dergay said there’s not as much maple sap to collect.

For Dergay, the process itself is worth it. “It’s a labor of love,” he added, saying he makes just enough to cover his expenses.

Looking to the future, he shared his hopes for the sugarhouse. “The dream is to slowly build the business, and do more with it and expand.”

WBZ NewsRadio's Chaiel Schaffel (@CSchaffelWBZ) reports.

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