Scones were never in the cards for Cynthia and John Vergilii.
In fact, when the couple opened the Joseph Horton House in Wappingers Falls back in 2007, scones weren’t on their mind in the slightest. At the time, their main focus was on operating the historic farmhouse, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. During their ownership, which lasted until 2013, they dressed in old-timey garb and treated visitors to high tea luncheons and dinners.
It was during one of those lunches that the Horton House scone came to life.
“I had a basic scone recipe from an old cookbook,” Cynthia recalls, adding that it was nothing special on its own. In a stroke of inspiration, she tweaked it and added coconut, cranberries, and white chocolate chips. In no time at all, she had a hit on her hands.
“People ordered them and loved them and it was a huge thing,” she enthuses. Soon, the couple was selling to historic estates like the Mills Mansion and Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park.
Wise Guy scones with vegan Italian sausage and peppers (John’s favorite)
Successful as the scones were, they weren’t able to defray the cost of catering operations. The couple soon had to close shop, opting to move to New England and take up corporate jobs after a number of years of working for themselves. Only a few years later, however, the itch of entrepreneurialism returned. At the same time, their daughter, who had just purchased a house in Fishkill, invited them back to the Valley to pick up where they left off with their scones. Once they looked into the legalities, the Vergiliis discovered they could produce one baked item at home without being required to pursue a full catering license.
“Let’s just do scones,” they agreed. Starting back at square one with their original scone recipe, they turned their cranberry concoction, now dubbed Crantastic, into the 20 varieties they sell today. Most, like Cinn a Scone (cinnamon, white chocolate, and maple glaze), are sweet, although a few savory varieties do make their way onto the menu as well. The Italiano, for instance, is a Mediterranean-inspired treat, while the Gar-Leek is a limited-edition concoction that offers a flavorful upgrade from run-of-the-mill dinner biscuits.
When it comes to the actual baking, the Vergiliis mix the dough together – literally. John often hand mixes the dough while Phyllis adds ingredients. They come together to brainstorm new recipes and individually package their treats for flea markets and fairs throughout the Hudson Valley. While their operation is still relatively new, they already have a seamless baking schedule down. After preparing and packaging their scones on Thursdays and Fridays, they deliver to stores and set up shop at festivals on the weekends. On Mondays, they take the day off to recharge and unwind.
Cynthia and John Vergilii with their scones at Dutchess Marketplace in Fishkill
Although all has gone well with Horton House Scone Company so far, a minor bump in the road came when Cynthia and John decided to go vegan. They were no longer consuming animal products, but their scones most definitely were. Unsure of what to do, they kept retailing their original recipe.
Then the requests came.
“Everyone asked for dairy-free, egg-free, and gluten-free,” Cynthia recalls, noting that the requests overwhelmed her at every market event she attended. Keeping those queries in mind, she and John weighed the pros and cons of dropping their original recipe in favor of a vegan alternative. Ultimately, they decided to go all in, and haven’t looked back since.
Nowadays, Horton House makes vegan scones so soft and crumbly that you’ll never know they’re dairy-free – although it certainly doesn’t hurt the brand’s appeal. On top of that, it also serves up four gluten-free scones in flavors like the best-selling Chip Chop Chip, with white and semi-sweet chocolate, and Baked Potato, with red potatoes, chives, and vegan bacon.
Sunny O scone with candied orange, coconut, and white chocolate (Cynthia’s favorite)
Sounds delectable? The only thing left to do is to get your hands on the healthyish bites, which currently have a strong presence at markets and community grocers throughout the Hudson Valley. Find all the scones at Dutchess Marketplace in Fishkill on weekends or pick up the sweet ones at Nature’s Pantry in Fishkill throughout the week. Coming up, Horton House will have a presence at the Arlington Farmers’ Market in Poughkeepsie beginning on Thursdays in May.
No matter what, the Vergiliis want to keep the focus on the customers.
“We don’t want to lose being in front of the customers,” enthuses Cynthia, who loves the personalized interactions that power small businesses like hers. “I love hearing how they love [the scones] and staying in touch with them.”