Finding their hive

BEE HERE NOW: Jillian Kelly, left, and Kim Allen, right, hope their new West Asheville store will provide a hub for honey lovers and the local beekeeping community. Photo by Paul Andrews

A new business dedicated to all things honeybee is coming to Haywood Road this winter. Jillian Kelly and Kim Allen, two former commodities traders from Chicago, are in the midst of renovating one half of the historic building at 707 Haywood Road that previously housed Mr. Fred's Beds, with the goal of opening what they hope will be a local honey hub.

Kelly and Allen say their store, Asheville Bee Charmer, will offer a selection of honeys from Asheville-area producers, along with varieties from all over the United States, including many organic and kosher choices. A tasting bar will allow customers to try before they buy.

“Around here, we pretty much only get sourwood and wildflower honey,” says Allen. “But at our shop people will get to taste many different types of honey than what they can ordinarily find.”

Kelly, a big fan of the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” says they want the space to have a “down-home feel; to take [customers] back to a different time.”

To that end, the pair have contracted Asheville metal artisan and woodworker Shawn Oldham to create custom metal signage and design interior components, including the wooden tasting bar and backlit rustic shelving that will highlight the warm colors of the honey.

The couple, who moved to Asheville in October after their son started college, also plan to sell bee-related apparel, beeswax candles, skin care products, bee-themed jewelry, books and other merchandise, all made, as much as possible, by local artisans.

“We really want to reach out to our neighbors here in West Asheville,” Kelly says. “We'll be relying on as many local people as possible to make our products and we're reaching out to as many people as we can.”

They plan for this outreach to include educating the public about colony collapse disorder and the plight of honeybees, along with creating a meeting spot for Asheville's beekeeping community. “We want to be a clearinghouse for local honey,” Allen says. “We aren't trying to compete.”

The building's owner, Paul Andrews, says he supports their plans. “I loved the idea immediately,” says Andrews. “I love honey.”

Kelly and Allen, whose passion for bees stems from a love of cooking with honey, are also in the process of building a new home in North Asheville where they plan to keep their own bees. For them, Kelly says, everything is coming together.

“We found the right space and the right landlord at the right time,” says Kelly. “We found our hive.”

Asheville Bee Charmer is at 707 Haywood Road and is scheduled to open in early February.


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