Hill High Country Store – The Pie Place in Round Hill
Just west of Round Hill, on business Rt. 7, there is an old covered wagon sitting in front of a large white building. The building was originally the apple packing house and cold storage for Sleeters Orchards. A trip to the old covered wagon has become a holiday tradition for hundreds during the holiday seasons. What’s behind the covered wagon that has drawn people there for over 30 years? Home baked pies!
During the week of Thanksgiving this small western Loudoun business bakes and sells over 3000 pies (and then does it again for Christmas!). As expected, the biggest holiday sellers are pumpkin and apple. However, shoppers can chose from 38 different kinds of pies, including sugar-free fillings. But will people drive to Round Hill just to buy a pie?
Well, they buy more than just a pie. Hill High Country Store features local fruits (apples galore!), local apple cider, jams and jellies, country hams, and country crafts. Not to mention one of the best soup and deli selections in western Loudoun.
Ron Heimburger bought the Hill High Country Store business in 1993. Today the store uses three convection ovens to bake pies 24 hours a day the week before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ordering pies early is highly recommended to assure the pie you want is available. Kate Heimburger takes care of the pie orders, the extensive deli offerings, preparation of special ordered country hams, and the “country crafts” selection.
When standing in the checkout line don’t be surprised if you hear someone say “I remember coming here when I was a kid to get our holiday pies.”
So how did this business start to become such a holiday tradition? Well that goes back to the Sleeter family that once had over 850 acres of orchards in western Loudoun. Between the loads of apples and peaches, and after the fruit was placed in cold storage, Mrs. Mary Sleeter would peel the fruit and make pies from scratch. The customers would come in to buy fresh fruit – smell those pies baking and buy one to take home.
According to Round Hill historian Ann Thomas, the couple’s first run of apples was called Colonel’s Pride, while second-grade apples were marketed under the Sleeter brand. In 1948, Thomas said, the colonel instituted a fruit refrigeration plant and his wife oversaw the entire operation.
Kenneth Lowery came to Hill High in 1956 and managed it for more than 35 years until the early 1990s, when the colonel’s son, John Sleeter, sold the property to Bob Lewis and his Stoneliegh partners.
Hill High was a wonderful venture in its heyday, Lowery recalled this week. “We had about 250 acres of apples and the same number of peaches. We also grew strawberries and vegetables,” he said.
The business sponsored hayrides through the orchards, festivals down by the pond on the north side of Rt. 7, pumpkin carving and other community activities, he recalled. He discovered a wild apple that was propagated as Lowery’s Apple, according to Thomas. Heimburger said he’s been on a 30-day lease for the past three months with the Stoneleigh Group, owned by Lewis, who, with the late Bruce Brownell and J. Corey, developed the Stoneleigh golf course community on the east side of Rt. 7 in the old Hill High apple orchards. Lewis’ son, Cam Lewis, is project manager for the store property.
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