On a cool, sunny Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of people snaked in a line that stretched about three city blocks. Young and old — on foot, in strollers, and (in one case) on crutches, fans of Knaus Berry Farm queued up for the bake shop and farm stand's season opener.
The main attraction: Knaus' famous warm cinnamon rolls and fruit shakes. For most customers, the intoxicating scent of spices and baked goods was enough to get them to drive for miles and wait for up to two hours.
Thomas Blocher, co-owner and bakery manager of Knaus Berry Farm, said the first day of the season is always busy. "There's an anticipation that builds."
Lines for the baked goods will likely continue through Thanksgiving, with Saturdays being especially hectic. His pro tip after 32 years of baking and selling the treats: "The best time to come is on a school day." Blocher also recommends that people bring umbrellas to shield from both rain and sun while waiting.
He said his bakery turns out the rolls as fast as capacity will allow. "Our ovens are full all the time." Just how many cinnamon rolls are baked is a family secret. "All I can tell you is a lot. That's a general answer. We don't share the exact number."
Though cinnamon-roll madness is in full effect, Knaus Berry Farm still accepts cash only. Blocher said there's a reason: "I can take your money faster than I can bake the rolls." He explained that cash is still the fastest way to handle the thousands of people who come through the modest bake shop each day. (Knaus accepts credit cards for online purchases to be shipped after January 1.) "There's no express line," the baker said.
Still, while Knaus keeps things traditional in many respects, changes are coming for the season. Blocher said he plans further collaborations with Wynwood's the Salty Donut. Also in the works are partnerships with Miami Smokers and Azucar Ice Cream. The farm has also introduced a peanut butter pie with a chocolate graham-cracker crust. A pumpkin pie shake is also a popular item at the stand, with a separate line that moves quickly. (Hint: Order a shake to sip while you wait for your cinnamon rolls.)
Still, they come for the cinnamon rolls.
Valerie Stern from Schenley Park has been traveling to Knaus since a friend turned her on to the Redland farm in 1977. Now retired, she volunteered to venture south and bring back cinnamon rolls for her family. "It's kind of a tradition," she said. "I used to come on weekends; now I can come any time I like. Plus, you meet the nicest people."
Stern struck up a friendship with Ray Chandler, who drove from Plantation for his first taste of Knaus' products. "I heard the raves for the past ten years and had to see for myself, finally."
Students Amanda Carroll and Crystal Dees "took off" from school for their treats. According to Carroll, Knaus' rolls are the best they've had. "I think the first day that Knaus opens should be a holiday," Dees quipped.
Milagro and Abel Gonzalez brought their son, Abel Jr., for his first taste. They were in town visiting family from Georgia and had to stop by.
Even on crutches, Megan Nichols waited for two hours. "My friend is in from Orlando, so today was the only day to do this." Sam Schultz, a Disney World employee, said he's used to seeing people wait in long lines, but this was the first time he'd waited for anything. "I didn't know it was going to be two hours."
At the very end of the line stood Sergio Carballo and Robert Armengol. The friends arrived around 1:30 p.m. and were hesitant to wait until they were assured that Knaus wouldn't run out of rolls. Just what is it about these particular sweets, anyway, that causes people to stand in line for hours? "They're glazey and tasty, and they're like no others in the world," Carballo said.
Knaus Berry Farm is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The farm and shop are closed Sunday. A dozen cinnamon rolls cost $9.75, a half-dozen runs $5.25, and individual rolls are $1 each.
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