If you blink while driving along Bear River Road in the western border town of Newry, you’ll likely miss it.
Puzzle Mountain Bakery has a small, unobtrusive roadside stand where hikers and other travelers to the area can stop in and purchase a variety of baked goods, including pies, cookies and jams.
Located less than 6 miles from the entrance to Grafton Notch State Park on Route 26, the unmanned kiosk provides its customers with the chance to browse and purchase items conveniently and quickly.
Starting this month, passersby will have to pay more for the sweets. Puzzle Mountain Bakery owners Ryan and Devon Wheeler recently went to Facebook to announce significant price increases for 2022 due largely to inflation.
“Dry ingredients have doubled, fruit has tripled, eggs have doubled and oil prices — this is our only source of income, and we have to be smart and think about how we can get by, especially with our new addition to the family,” the Wheelers said.
The new prices start at $2 for maple cream cookies and go up to $20 for crumb pies. Other offerings include chocolate whoopie pies for $4, chocolate maple whoopie pies for $5, jam for $10 and fruit pies for $18.
The feedback from longtime supporters was overwhelmingly positive.
“Worth every penny of the increase,” said Valerie Bowden of Melrose, Massachusetts, who suggested that higher cost was better than shrinking the items, as is happening with many mass-produced products.
Such sentiments were widespread in support of the bakery from folks who visit and recreate in and around Newry.
“We drove up from Harpswell yesterday to buy some whoopie pies and maple cookies. Best in the state. Always worth the drive. But the increases are completely understandable,” said Robert Husereau.
The outpouring of support is not unexpected, given the Wheelers’ affection for their customers, but it is greatly appreciated.
“It was a relief that our customers understood that we had to increase prices due to the outrageous inventory increases,” Devon Wheeler said. “We love our loyal friends.”
Another thing that has cut into Puzzle Mountain Bakery’s bottom line is an increase in theft. Since the roadside stand is not manned, customers are on the honor system to pay for whatever they take.
Devon Wheeler said that while theft did not play a role in their recent decision to increase prices, it is nonetheless disconcerting.
“We did not increase our prices because of theft. It was purely because of high manufacturing prices,” she said, “but it is very sad to see that these last two years have had such a high theft rate.”
The allegations of theft also rallied Puzzle Mountain Bakery’s customers to speak out.
“Shame on the people who are stealing. No need to take advantage of hardworking people like yourselves. I just bought cookies today,” Christine Mogavero Tirado of Greenfield said recently.
“We are your customers, we love you and will support you always,” said Ethan Bump of Gorham. “And as for theft, it’s ridiculous that people will do this to a small business.”
Puzzle Mountain Bakery is a staple of the region. It was opened in 1999 by Ryan Wheeler’s mother, Mary Jo Kelley.
The stand is open Thursday through Sunday, with fresh offerings usually on display between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.