Horton House Scone Company: How an Amenia bakery went gluten-free and vegan– and survived a pandemic in the process
John and Cynthia Vergilii, owners of Horton House Scone Company in Amenia
and Cynthia Vergilii what they’re known for, and they won’t say their famous
scones. That’s surprising, because those scones were a big part of the Hudson
Valley Colonial Food Experience that the Vergiliis once offered at their
historic home, the Joseph Horton House in Wappingers Falls.
“We are best known for the incredible way we work together, even after 20 years of marriage,” Cynthia says.
Marriage means adapting to change while holding fast to your values and commitments. That might explain how the Vergiliis kept their own partnership going for two decades—and kept their small business going during a global pandemic.
They launched the Horton House Scone Company five years ago, making individually wrapped gluten-free, kosher, vegan scones and cookies. Their original scones were made traditionally, but after becoming plant-based eaters themselves and receiving numerous specialty requests from customers with food restrictions, the Vergiliis adjusted their recipes to make them healthier without sacrificing flavor and texture.
“We started in our own kitchen and test-marketed the products with a simple booth at the Dutchess Flea Market in Fishkill,” Cynthia says. “We were blessed to be picked up by both the Nature’s Pantry stores almost immediately after coming up with packaging and barcodes.”
Roll with the changes
Covid, of course, changed everything—from their sampling process to their sales and distribution.
Instead of baking for in-store samples, the Vergiliis began making packaged mini-samples that stores could hand out with their curbside pickup. They also moved from their home kitchen to a large mixed-use facility, to handle the increase in online sales.
As they saw traditional food distribution channels break down, they began selling their products through local farm stores. They also invested in a promotional giveaway chip clip with their QR code, which took customers directly to their website for ordering.
Thanks to the Vergiliis’ pragmatism and flexibility during the pandemic, their small business survived the pandemic stronger than ever.
Horton House scones can now be found at more than a dozen online and local retailers, including Fishkill Farms and Nature’s Pantry, in Fishkill; Green Way Market, in Cross River; McEnroe Organic Farm and The Dig, in Millerton; Thank Goodness It’s Vegan, in Goshen; Marona’s Market, in Millbrook; Four Brothers Pizza, in Amenia; Big Rock Farm Market, in Stanfordville; and Meadow Brook Farms and Farm Stores Drive-Thru, in Wappingers Falls.
Mix it up
Here’s something else the Vergiliis are famous for: their creative vision.
“We are known for our numerous creative flavors in both scones and cookies,” Cynthia says. “We test new flavors in the open market season, even adding savory scones using local produce.”
Along with variations of the classics, like Peanut Butter Chip, Cinnaswirl and Chocolate Madness, Horton House scones come in inspired flavors like Trail Mix, Caffe Mocha and French Toast.
That’s quite a feat considering the potential limitations of “healthy” baking. All Horton House baked goods are made with oat flour and contain no refined sugar, salt or preservatives in the base mix. They are naturally sweetened by dried fruits, nuts, berries, coconut, chocolate—and sometimes a bit of maple syrup.
Apparently the Vergiliis have found the recipe for success, in marriage and in business. Currently they’re in the market for a local and national distributor. In the meantime, they’re plenty busy filling holiday orders.
Location: Horton House Scone Company, Amenia, NY.