By Alyssa Bump
Pollywogg Holler, the secluded eco-resort known for creating a welcoming experience in nature with music, food and friends, is currently closed for the 2021 season.
And, according to co-owner Tammy Castle, the owners don’t plan to bring live music to their neck of the woods, which had been a favorite venue for Western New York Americana and roots musicians such as Shaky Stage, Uncle Ben’s Remedy, Folk Faces, Ten Cent Howl, the Observers and Leroy Townes.
In previous years, the resort had various activities, such as pizza days featuring live music, plus a bed and breakfast.
Castle said, “What makes Pollywogg Holler unique is a feeling of peace and acceptance.
Whether you come for a quiet overnight stay to be in solitude amongst the forest or stop in for an afternoon to enjoy the camaraderie of pizza day you’ll find all types of people coming together with one common goal: to relax in this magical forest.”
Castle said the resort started out as a “family dream to live in harmony with nature away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world” in 1976.
It wasn’t until the ‘80s that the Castles decided to get a business license to start renting out cabins.
In the ‘90s, the business got its health permit to serve brick oven pizza, and in the 2000s, they got their liquor license to sell homemade wine.
Castle said, “The Castles never set out to be a ‘business.’ It just sort of evolved with the times, the requirements from the state and folks’ desire to come out and visit the magical forest home the Castle family had created.”
Within the forest, music would often be played, even before live bands were brought along.
“The music just kind of came along with the guests, someone would bring a guitar and start singing around the campfire. Eventually it was the musicians themselves that prompted the building of our tiny stage powered by a rigged up golf cart,” said Castle.
Tammy and her husband, Mickey Castle, have been managing the business together for the last ten years, and they became the owners of the property in 2018.
The couple is currently raising and homeschooling their son William on the land, which makes for a fourth-generation Castle living at Pollywogg Holler.
Last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pollywogg Holler was one of the many small businesses that took a large hit financially.
This was one of the many reasons the Castles had to make the extremely difficult decision of closing the resort to the public this season.
“We had a 50% loss in revenue over the previous year, while incurring increased expenses revolving around maintaining COVID protocols,” said Tammy.
Tammy’s father is also in the end stages of dementia, which was one of the biggest factors in deciding to shut down the resort for the season.
On top of all of this, one of the Castle family members sold their portion of the property to an outside family that has started a farmstead that splits the resort nearly in half.
Rather than being filled with unease about the situation, Tammy approaches it with an open mind.
She said, “In the long run we knew we wanted to shift into a more private life where we can enjoy raising William without the hustle and bustle of running a busy seasonal business. Wasn’t that the original purpose of Pollywogg Holler to begin with? I want him to be able to experience the magic for himself, not just see it as a business.”
Despite their plans to reopen cabin rentals and bed and breakfast portion of the business next season, the couple does not plan to bring live music back.
Scaling down the business will require fewer licenses and less overhead costs.
“Our guests are disappointed that we will not be doing the pizza day thing anymore. So many good times and good memories shared by us, our staff, the guests, the musicians and artists throughout the past 49 years, but everything has its time,” said Tammy.
She recalled one instance at one of their Winterfest celebrations that led to the collaboration of many musicians.
“The Legendary Long Johns were formed one infamous, snowy, night while members of Shaky Stage, Ten Cent Howl and Leroy Townes Band were all staying up at the old 1840s schoolhouse,” said Tammy.
Regarding this new change, Tammy said, “This whole transition has been difficult for our family here; we still have three generations of family living here. Everyone has been impacted by the COVID pandemic and so many folks seem to be reevaluating how they live and who and what are priorities in their life. Life is short, but beautiful and we are lucky to live each day.”