Cherry City Honey offers a variety of sweet and natural products
BELLEVUE — In 2016, Tami Clark-Wylie started beekeeping with two hives. By 2021 – just five years later – she and husband Gary had owned 40 hives, opened a new store and harvested over 4,300 pounds of raw honey.
While the Cherry City Honey Farms, 1000 CR 312 (Northwest Road), opened their building in 2021, due to COVID-19, they just had their grand grand opening and open house earlier this month with the Sandusky County Chamber of Commerce.
The pair started this season with 40 hives of bees surviving the winter, but by late summer will be closer to 60 hives as swarms are added and hives are divided.
Gary said it’s an interesting story how his wife got them into the bee business.
Tami returned a book to the Clyde Public Library in 2016 and met Clyde resident Tom Rathbun of the Sandusky River Valley Beekeeping Group who was talking about beekeeping. She went home and told her husband she thought they should get into beekeeping, Gary said.
“I just went to return a book,” she said of her fateful encounter with longtime beekeeper Rathbun.
When Tami started with her bees, she was still working full time. Her husband had a training and engineering business and she also worked there in accounting.
Yet the beekeeping business was his at first.
Cherry City Honey grew up doing the farmers’ markets of Fremont and Port Clinton
“Tami found herself doing farmer’s markets,” Gary said of the early years. She was one of the first vendors to participate in the downtown Port Clinton Farmer’s Market and has become a regular vendor at downtown Fremont Farmers’ Markets, as well as others and craft shows where she sold her raw honey.
“I was one of the top eight,” Tami said of settling in Port Clinton. Going from market to market, Cherry City Honey Farms attracted a following and fans devoted themselves to their raw honey and honeys flavored with spices like cinnamon or even hot spices. Then, four years ago, Gary retired and the honey business became a bigger part of their lives.
Gary and Tami continued to add beehives and became active members of the Sandusky River Valley Beekeeping Association. The product lines also continued to expand.
Then COVID-19 hit in 2020 and the Wylies had to adapt. They started selling boxes of honey by mail order and
“We’ve gone from farmers’ markets to shipping produce or picking up,” Gary said. “We had a pretty good following. We wanted to open a store.”
Build a store near them
In 2021, the couple had carpenters construct a new building near their home and they opened it in April of the same year.
The store allowed people to go out and buy raw honey, flavors and various natural products that they had. The new building also allowed Cherry City Honey Farms to store items needed by beekeepers and newcomers to the field, such as hive boxes and other parts.
Gary said the closest place to buy these supplies was an hour away until Cherry City Honey Farms began stocking boxes made by the Amish.
The honey house building includes not only a store, but a large area where tables and chairs are set up for classes or visiting clubs interested in learning more about bees and beekeeping. Gary is also now president of the Sandusky River Beekeeping and the hall provides a meeting place for them.
Tami also researched bee-themed gift items for the store.
“Everyone wants to ‘save the bees,'” she added. Tami became interested in bees because she cares about her health and the environment, she said. “I’m into clean food.”
It has also invested in clean-burning beeswax for candles, honey-based lotions, essential oil-based soaps and natural wood polishes, now available in stores. “I do a body scrub with honey,” she added.
When people walk into the Cherry City Honey Farms store, they comment on the natural and fresh smells, according to staff.
In addition to offering raw honey in jars of different sizes, the store will take back their empty jars for recycling.
Try to meet customer preferences for different types of honey
Gary said the pair are also working to provide the kinds of honeys people want. Ohio is known for its sweet clover honey, which is a light golden brown in the spring. As the bees find more flowers during the summer, the honey will darken.
The only type of honey that many people seem to want is buckwheat. Gary said there is not as much buckwheat cultivation as there used to be, but they have found farmers who are growing the crop and they are moving several beehives to these fields to allow the bees to create buckwheat honey – a very dark honey with almost a molasses flavor.
While the Wylies will be moving beehives for buckwheat, they’ve stopped renting beehives to other farms, as Gary said, that’s up to young beekeepers to take care of. But as members of the Sandusky River Beekeeping group, they know a few other beekeepers because the organization has 121 members.
Despite COVID-19, thanks to Rathbun’s leadership and Zoom meetings, the beekeeping group has not lost any members.
“Beekeeping is quite popular in our area here,” said Gary Wylie. “I took over from (Rathbun) and those are big shoes to fill.” Gary is now president of the organization as his predecessor held a position with the state beekeeping group.
“We have a very positive view of the beekeeping sector,” said the man from Bellevue.
For more information about Cherry City Honey and its store, visit Cherrycityhoney.com or call 419-271-2720.