Grist Mill, Campgrounds Are “A Little Slice Of Heaven’’
Never willing to settle and always looking for a new spin on the everyday norm, Greg and Dawn Harnish’s efforts since taking over the ownership and daily operations of the Burnt Cabins Grist Mill and Ye Olde Mill Campgrounds four years ago have turned their business into one of the premier staycation hot spots in Fulton County.
“It’s our little slice of heaven,” Dawn told the “News.”
Having moved here from Willow Street, Pa., the Harnish family purchased the mill and adjacent campgound in 2006 from longtime owner Jack Blattenberger. Interested in keeping with tradition, the couple have followed with past practice at the mill but have also woven in an array of new amenities and events to keep both the locals and visiting customers coming back for more.
With 32 campsites complete with electric hookup and water, the campground is almost like a home away from home for many visitors. Possibly the most requested and sought-after amenity that is now a favorite with campers is cable television.
Greg recalls one local resident having moved from Shade Gap to Burnt Cabins and was encountering difficulties getting his television service hooked up. Instead of waiting, the man pulled his camper down to the Ye Olde Mill Campgrounds, where he stayed with all the comforts of home until his television service was up and running. Dawn added another individual from Reading travelled to the campgrounds just to catch a Philadelphia Phillies game on the tube.
Furthermore, a total of three RV trailers are available for overnight stays at the reasonable price of $65 and include “the works” such as a kitchen, refrigerator, pots and pans and air conditioning. Linens are provided for an additional charge.
In addition to the 32 camper sites, the Harnish family added a total of seven creekside, primitive camping sites for tents just this year along a wooded area. Even though there is a handful of local residents who frequent the camp, even more visitors from the Tussey Mountain area of Broad Top, Wood and Saxton are now calling the mill and campgrounds their favorite vacation destination.
Looking at the last four years as an ongoing learning experience, the Harnishes admit their biggest challenge as business owners is trying out new promotions and advertisements in order to get the “biggest bang for their buck” by promoting all three aspects of their business – the mill, the campgrounds and the store.
The store, which has turned out to be a hit with residents of the village of Burnt Cabins, serves as a local meeting place for the morning “Coffee Crew” and as a cheap alternative to purchase basic food staples. Hand-dipped ice cream is the newest feature at the store, and Greg promises he will soon be following through with his plans to add a section for deli meat and made-to-order sandwiches.
“The locals have discovered our store and learned that are prices aren’t outrageous,” said Greg, who pointed out he and Dawn try to keep their prices at a competitive level with those found at major chain grocery stores.
The Harnishes also encourage use of their rental pavilion whether it be for a family reunion, birthday party or anniversaries. While onsite, visitors can utilize the volleyball area or play some horseshoes. Another favorite with the children is a sandbox made from an old boat.
Dawn boasts most every weekend an activity of some sort is on the schedule. For example, during the spring months campers can earn a discount on their stay by lending their services during camper work weekend. The Hillbilly Golf Tournament (ladder golf) is a popular event on both Memorial and Labor Day weekends. Meanwhile, Mother’s and Father’s Day weekends include some cooking over the campfire with s’mores and mountain pies.
“Homecoming Weekend,” set for August 20 through 22, will include a car cruise-in on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., with dash plaques given to the first 25 registrants. Food ranging from hot dogs and burgers to french fries and ice cream treats will be available throughout the weekend for tailgating. Participating tailgaters are encouraged to decorate their site to pay homage to their favorite team.
With the annual antique tractor show done for this year, plans are already under way for the 2011 event set for July 9-10. The featured tractor will be the Farmall, and the event will include a flea market, kids’ lawn mower driving competition, tractor parade, adult tractor driving games, potluck supper and pancake/ sausage breakfasts.
The Harnishes concluded Sundays include worship services at the pavilion beginning at 8:30 a.m. with Bruce Carriker, chaplain at Cowans Gap State Park. As a follow-up to worship services sponsored by the PA Council of Church, tours of the mill are offered starting at 11 a.m. Campers can partake of the tour free of charge, and cost for noncamping guests is $2.