Entrepreneur bees go from hobby to selling sweet honey

When New York City legalized beekeeping in 2010, Ruth Harrigan got her first two hives and was hooked. Twelve years later his hobby is a business, producing thousands of pounds of organic honey blends in Great Neck.

His company HoneyGrammz, which opened its storefront in October, was born out of a passion for beekeeping that Harrigan, 57, of Douglaston, Queens, developed when his day job was working for a hedge fund in Manhattan. She took a beekeeping course and “I was sold,” she said.

The hedge fund folded in 2013 and she decided to try doing what she loved. Today, she estimates she buys 8,000 pounds of honey a year to supplement the 400 pounds her own hives produce.

Caring for bee colonies provides an escape from everyday pressures, Harrigan said.

“It’s very easy to get lost with the bees,” she says. “It’s very calming. You only focus on the bees, and it’s rarely during the day doing any other activity that you can close your mind to the outside world and only think about one thing.

HoneyGrammz started in nearby Douglaston, where Harrigan tends to her bee colonies — she has 14 in Douglaston and manages six more in Brooklyn and Staten Island — and has grown over the years. Until she opened her boutique on Long Island, she said she sold to retailers and online. This week, her New York honey will hit the shelves at the Long Island Welcome Center’s Taste of New York store on the eastbound Long Island Highway in Dix Hills. Taste of New York is a state program that features agricultural products produced in New York.

“We’re always excited to bring in new vendors,” said Amy Lesh, Taste of New York Market Manager at the Long Island location between outlets 51 and 52. Harrigan’s honey is eligible to be sold there because “She uses New York State honey and she processes in New York State,” Lesh said.

The country’s annual honey consumption hit a record 618 million pounds last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. More than half of the honey consumed in the United States is imported, while about 115,000 to 125,000 domestic beekeepers produce the rest, according to the National Honey Board, a Colorado-based trade association. Most beekeepers are hobbyists with fewer than 25 hives, according to the association.

Harrigan said she had been looking for a new home for her business for six months when her husband saw a for rent sign on the Great Neck Road store while riding his bike. She met the owner the next day and signed on the spot, she said.

Last month, she received a call about a swarm of bees at a residence in Plandome Heights. Harrigan and her husband removed the swarm and gave them a new home in his apiary in Douglaston.

Harrigan makes honey blends at the back of the shop in small 30-pound batches at a time, mixing pure honey with organic ingredients like ginger or turmeric – stressing that the company does not adulterate its honey with d other sweeteners like corn syrup.

“Ginger honey is not ginger flavoring,” she said. “It’s pure, dehydrated organic ginger root. This is what gives it a really strong taste.

Harrigan’s new flavor is Honey with Chocolate and Pomegranate, introduced last year for Valentine’s Day.

“We found out that chocolate and pomegranate separately are two products that are known to be aphrodisiacs, so just for fun, we decided to mix them together,” she said. “It’s unlike anything you’ve tasted before.”

SWEET ON HONEY

The United States is the second largest consumer of honey in the world after China.

The country’s honey consumption hit a record 618 million pounds in 2021.

The United States is the sixth largest producer of honey in the world.

Domestic honey production has fallen over the past 30 years as imports have increased.

SOURCE: United States Department of Agriculture