Jason and Dana Shoff are all about the honey – and they’re ready to spread their love and educate people about the little black and yellow bugs that make the sweet, sticky golden liquid.
Mill Creek Apiary has been around since 2005, but the Shoffs took over ownership in 2018.
The couple owns 12 to 15 apiaries on various local farms where they produce honey. The new boutique will be their home base.
In addition to selling honey, they offer beehive removals and educate businesses about pollination by setting up beehives on corporate campuses.
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With a certification from the Ministry of Agriculture, Jason sells bees to people who want to start their own hives. He also supplies bees to local farms to pollinate fruits, mainly blueberries and cranberries, getting a lot of honey from this process.
Having grown “tremendously” over the past four years, Jason said they needed their own commercial kitchen.
“So that was really the driving force behind finding a space because of the products we produce,” he said. “We don’t just sell honey; we make a product.
Honey, honey and more honey
Mill Creek Apiary will offer Creamed Honey (honey made into a spread) in various flavors, infused honey (including flavors like ginger and lemon) and beeswax-based skincare products such as creams for the skin and lip balms in the shop.
They also hope to make propolis tinctures, a kind of throat spray produced in the hive.
“It’s very soothing and helps with sore throats, sore throats and colds and flu, things like that,” Jason explained.
The Shoffs, who live in Medford, saw the former cafe space (which moved to power plant in the historic village of Medford) was available. They contacted Joe Johnston, co-owner of the cafe and Ark Brewery, Restaurant & Pub in Lumberton, and took over the lease.
” And it worked ; it happened very quickly,” Jason said. The process started in January.
Once construction and final inspections are complete, the couple put the finishing touches on the shop. Their goal is to open on May 14.
Initially, Jason said he was looking to only use the commercial kitchen, but having a retail space “seemed to make sense to give people a chance to come in.”
Jason loves educating customers about bees and honey. The shop will therefore offer customers a space to taste the honey before buying and attend workshops on honey extraction, product production and the importance of bees in the ecosystem.
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“We’d like to make it a space, not just to sell a product, but to be where guests come out of there and learn something about bees,” he said.
“A complete visual experience”
Upon entering the store, customers will find a clean, modern look, “a little different from what people usually think of honey,” Jason said.
The space has an open concept so Jason and his team can be seen churning, bottling and more. (The guest will see team member Val Hicks, who is part of product development, more so than Pat Hurley, who inspects and maintains the hives, at the store.)
“It’s an open-air (space) and a complete visual for anyone who enters it,” he said. “We want the process to be transparent and accessible to anyone who wants to see it.”
There will be a honey tasting bar along one end of the shop with 12-15 types of honey, including seasonal ones.
“Whether it comes from the acacia trees or the goldenrod or the pepper plant…these are varieties of plants that bloom profusely at certain times of the year that we can take out of the honey and offer these – they all have very distinctive flavors,” Jason said. .
Beeswax candles and skin creams will be on display. Informative guides will be hung on the walls. Farms the apiary works with, including Jennings Farm and Princeton Lavender (they also source lavender for their infused honey), will be featured in the shop.
An unpolluted hive will also be displayed in the shop to explain to customers what a hive is and how it works. You can also taste fresh honey straight from the honeycombs.
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“(It’s) to really get a taste of super fresh harvested or straight from the hive the night before…it’s a different shade from honey in a jar,” Jason explained.
From time to time, the apiary extractor will stop by the shop to show customers how the honey is taken from the hive to a jar using a centrifuge at the shop.
Spread the love of honey
The Shoffs have collaborated with restaurants, eateries and breweries to share their passion for honey and hope to continue with the new store.
To Vincenttown dinner in Southampton Township, honey is used in cooking and sold in restaurants. Peewee ice cream in Medford uses their lavender honey and some of their used infusion ingredients like lemon and lavender in the ice cream.
The apiary will provide honey to Farm truck brewing for their signature beer “As it Should Bee” (a honey IPA). They will also sell their bottled honey to the upcoming brewery in Medford.
Jason hopes to work with Braddock’s Tavern also in Medford.
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The Shoffs love Medford and are excited to help grow the town, Jason said.
“I think having a store with honey is quite a unique experience,” he added. “There isn’t just a honey shop on every corner, so I’m excited to see what the answer is and to give people the opportunity to taste and learn…about the importance pollinators for what’s on our plate.”
Jason is also ready to have those daily interactions with guests after running his business from farms, farmers markets and events.
“Having face-to-face interaction is so important because I think honey is an underrated food and super healthy,” he said.
“It’s such a great product. I am delighted to be able to bring this information to people.
If you are going to
1 N. Main St., Medford, 609-451-BEES (2337); millcreekapiary.com
Opens in May
Hira Qureshi covers food and drink for South Jersey at the Courier Post, Burlington County Times and Daily Journal. She can be reached at [email protected] or 856-287-8106. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.