While visiting St. Simons Island recently, Steve and I had the unique privilege of meeting Ted Dennard, the Founder, President and Head Beekeeper of Savannah Beed Company. We love hearing the passionate stories of business owners who love what they do and are proud of their products. Ted started learning about bees and beekeeping when his dad allowed a friend, Roy Hightower, to put beehives on his property. The agreement was: “You use our property. Then teach us about bees and give us some honey to eat.” Ted was hooked. His first pet was even a cat he named “Honey.”
Ted earned a degree in Philosophy and Religion at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, and even taught beekeeping in Jamaica while serving in the Peace Corps. He saw himself as a hippie and had no desire to own a business, especially one that might “adulterate his love of bees.” His dad had told him early on: “Do what you love. Don’t do anything for money.” He found himself in a menial job scraping the scum off of bathtubs and realized he wasn’t really “doing what he loved.”
A Savannah store owner allowed him to put a few jars on his shelves to see how they would do. They quickly sold out, and the owner wanted more. By 2001, he had jars of honey in 25 stores, so he printed up a price sheet, went to the Atlanta Gift Mart, and wrote $3000 worth of orders. Aha. Maybe he was on to something. By 2007, he had 94 employees and a 40,000 square foot warehouse and was out of space.
His first retail store opened in 2008. Now, there are 3 stores in Savannah, 1 in Charleston and 1 on St. Simons Island. In addition, you can purchase Savannah Bee Company products at Dean and Deluca, Earth Fare, Whole Foods, Williams and Sonoma, Neiman-Marcus, Crate & Barrel and many other fine retailers.
Tupelo honey is the absolute top of the line in the honey world, and it was his first product. Ted even wanted the bottle to look distinctive. The small taste I got was better than any honey I’ve ever had — buttery, subtle, light, melts on your tongue. Oh my. The big bottles of this Gold Reserve sell for $112 each in the retail stores. I was oh-so-tempted. Hmmm. I DO have a birthday coming up. We ended up walking out with Wildflower Honey, Rosemary Honey, Cheese Honey, Grill Honey and a container of honeycomb. I will use them sparingly until I have a chance to buy more.
Ted is, at heart, a teacher. He explained that there are 25,000 different species of bees around the world. He told us that eating the honeycomb is best for asthma and allergies. He claims that eating it twice a day will help you to do away with allergy medications. He explained that 1 beehive will visit 500 million flowers and that it takes 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey. Ted wants children to learn about bees and has established a foundation — www.Bee.Cause.org — to put beehives (inside big glass cases) in 1000 schools. So far, they have made it into 180 schools.
Savannah Bee Company has expanded to include a line of body and skin care products, and they strive to make them as pure as possible. They contain no petroleum derivatives, parabens, talc, DEA, sodium lauryl, sodium sulfate, artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, or propylene glycol.
Even though I don’t drink alcohol, I learned that there is actually a wine made from honey called Mead, and it is the oldest known alcoholic beverage. It consists of watered down honey and yeast. Mead tastings are offered in their retail stores and have become very popular, actually doubling the traffic into the stores.
Want to know dozens of ways to incorporate honey into your cooking? Go to the website to find lots of very tempting recipes.
I am now a huge fan of the Savannah Bee Company, and I recommend their honey wholeheartedly.