Curiosity serves as a customer magnet.
The historic marker in front reminds window shoppers the pint-sized storefront was once a jailhouse, while the inside looks just large enough to accommodate an outlaw, a potbelly stove and a chair for the guard.
The space is home to Jorgensen’s Apiary, a find for lovers of sweets and health nuts who seek raw honey for its healing properties.
“An apiary is a European word for bee yard,” explains Walter Jorgensen, who says beekeeping started out simply as entertainment for him and his wife, Linda.
“We’ve never been big TV people,” she adds. “We would just take our lawn chairs and sit in front of the beehives.”
Of course, not everyone is fascinated by the lives of bees, but most customers marvel at the picture of Walter’s bee beard propped in front of the store’s cash register: A swarm of 1,500 insects hangs from his chin, while his stone face sports the slice of a smile.
He has heard customers buzzing: “You’re crazy.” “You must have no brains.” “That takes a lot of courage.”
“It takes a little bit of everything to do a bee beard,” says Walter, who fills the room at more than 6 feet tall.
The charm of Jorgensen’s Apiary comes from such quirks. Then there is the lore — the education that Walter doles out in the form of “Did you know?” factoids. (Such as, “Did you know bee pollen contains all 22 basic elements the human body requires?”) But what keeps people coming back is the one-batch-at-a-time philosophy that differentiates Jorgensen’s honey from mass producers.
“This honey was just in the hive yesterday morning,” Linda remarks, squirting a dollop from a plastic bear that holds a pound of the gold stuff harvested straight from one of the couple’s four hives. Walter filters and bottles it, leaving it “raw,” rather than processing it, which strips the honey of many of its health benefits.
Linda tweaks some batches, playing with flavoring by whipping the honey in a blender. A cinnamon toast batch smells like grandma’s kitchen. Blackberry tingles the tongue. Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff is a hot seller.
The bees also do some of the mixing. Depending upon the tree or flower they visit to gather nectar or pollen, the honey can taste rich and thick like molasses or light and sweet.
“If you want to compare it to beer, the lighter honey would be a Miller Light,” Walter explains. “The dark buckwheat honey would be a stout.”
Since opening the shop in November 2004, the Jorgensens have steadily created new products. A skin-care line, which includes beeswax hand lotions, lip balms and even honey-dust edible body power, is artfully displayed on an oak vanity inside the shop. The couple also relies on summer farmers’ markets to help move their sweet creations.
“He started out with a little card table and pretty soon we had to have a bigger one,” Linda recalls. “Now we take two 8-foot tables to farmers’ markets and still don’t have enough room.”
Jorgensen’s Apiary, 25546 Mill St., Olmsted Falls, (440) 235-5BEE; Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun noon - 5 p.m.
We helped ourselves to a few of Walter and Linda Jorgensen's creations. It was all in the name of thorough reporting. We swear.
Cinnamon Toast Creamed Honey: It tastes like breakfast at grandma’s house. Spread some on graham crackers and put traditional S’mores to shame.
Party Time Pepper Jelly: For people who like a little tang, a bit of crunch and that sticky jelly texture. Mixed fruits party with peppers, honey, nuts and spices. Tastes like dessert if you drop a dollop on a cracker with cream cheese.
Pure Spiced Honey: Jorgensen pops a slice of lemon, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves in this creation. The result is the flavor of Christmas cookies that’s great on an English muffin or transforms hot tea into chai.