Sandy Zielie

Sandy Zielie -- Entrepreneur

Sandy ZieleFour Corners Farm at the junction of Abbott Hill and Badger Farm Road is one of the oldest farms in Wilton, dating to the mid-1700s. It is the last dairy farm in town and home to Wilton-Temple Community Farm, one of the first CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in the country, which began in Temple in 1986 and moved to Four Corners in 1998. The farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is under a conservation easement to protect the land for farming forever.

It is also home to Hilltop Café , which opened in 2011 and was once highlighted by Bon Appetit magazine, and where you can enjoy food as nourishing as the produce and dairy produced on the farm.

Hilltop CafeMichael and Sandy Zielie’s ownership of Hilltop is but one stop on a long and circuitous journey. They have lived in Wilton Center for 24 years.

Owning a restaurant was not what they started out to do, Sandy said recently over breakfast at the café.

Sandy and Michael both grew up in Nashua, but did not meet until their mid-twenties. Sandy went to art school in Boston, then graduate school in the mid-west before returning to N.H. where the couple met.

After graduating from UNH, Michael managed the Domino’s Pizza in Durham. It proved to be the inspiration for his first company, which he launched at age 24. Sandy joined him a few years later, and the company evolved into a museum gift manufacturing business that made custom fine art reproduction merchandise for hundreds of museums across North America. That business still occupies a part of the Wilton Falls Building but is much smaller today.

While juggling business and home, their three daughters were growing up and attending Pine Hill and High Mowing School.

Twill Fabric and Yarn“I was a member of the board at Pine Hill, and The Hill had become our community. I left the business to become an administrator there for five years. I helped Michael with his businesses, and eventually opened my own. In 2012, I opened Twill Fabric and Yarn,  a retail store and teaching studio in Nashua. A few years later, as we made plans to take over the café, I decided I needed to downsize and move it closer. It’s now in Milford on Middle Street, just off the Oval, next to Olde Kilkenny’s pub.”

Last year she decided to become more involved in the town and is now on the Budget Committee. “I’ve learned a lot but I’m still brand new. It is not easy to learn the history and backstories of the issues facing the town, and meetings on Zoom were a challenge” It takes time to learn the politics of a community.

Zizza PizzaTheir newest enterprise is Zizza Authentic Pizzeria in Milford, located in the former Merrill’s store near the end of the by-pass. “Pizza is convenient and easy to feed a family during the pandemic. Families are stretched, some home schooling for the first time, working from home.,” she said. “It’s been an interesting full circle experience for Michael, from running a Domino’s right out of college to owning our own pizzeria.”

Their three daughters have grown up with the free entrepreneurial spirit. Brooklyn, the oldest, graduates this spring as a bio-chemist with a minor in brewing and works at Anheuser Busch. The second, recently graduated from High Mowing School, and will attend trade school for jewelry at North Bennet Street School in Boston. The youngest, still at High Mowing, is part of the Flying Gravity Circus.

The café is a local gathering spot, and they plan to operate it for the foreseeable future, Sandy said. “As long as the community wants us. We feel that good food nourishes a community.”

But it is more than that.

“The farm is special, as is the café, and both contribute to the vibrancy of this community. The land here is sacred and it is a real honor to be here. The love and care (the farmers) have for the land and the animals, is spiritual.”

She added, “The pure entrepreneur is my husband. He nurtures that confidence and willingness to try anything into our daughters. Our life here in this small, rural town is enriched by so many amazing people. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s had its ups and downs as anything does, but no matter what happens we are still the same capable people. If you can live your life without fear of failure, you can do amazing things”.

They certainly have.

The Hilltop Café is open Wed. and Thurs, 8-2 Fri. and Sat. 8-4 and Sun. 8-3. Call 654-2223, or check hilltopcafenh.com

 

 

 

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