A Hunterdon County apiary that caught the attention of Oprah expanded its Chelsea Market outpost on May 17, three years after carving a spot for itself at the popular shopping hub.
The original Zach & Zoe Sweet Bee Farm location within Chelsea Market closed along with the rest of the vendors due to the pandemic last March, and its landlords recently approached the apiary to move to a larger space within the historic building, once a Nabisco factory.
While owners Kam and Summer Johnson said they’re “probably the smallest vendor in terms of size and scale” within Chelsea Market, Zach & Zoe Sweet Bee Farm has received a fair amount of attention in the last year–its honey landed on Oprah’s Favorite Things 2020 list and the Johnsons were featured in a Chase Bank commercial in January.
The boost in business made now the right time to expand.
“Summer is always creating new flavor profiles and new honey products, [and expanding is] just an opportunity to showcase what’s possible. [Bees]wax is something we get a lot of interest in, and we get a lot of interest in honey dippers. [The space] was a little too tight before, and now we can showcase the new flavors and offerings,” Kam Johnson said.
When the family moved to Kingwood Township in Hunterdon County from Montclair about six years ago, their son Zach began to suffer from allergies and asthma that put him in the emergency room monthly. Trying to mitigate his allergies holistically, the Johnsons said they were buying “a lot of raw honey,” lauded by some as a cure for seasonal allergies called immunotherapy.
They decided to start two hives as a hobby of their own. Not only did they get hooked on the process, the raw honey drastically reduced Zach’s allergies.
“Making sure he got it every night—the experiment wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t give it to him. We noticed it getting warm again in the springtime and he didn’t have any issues,” said Summer Johnson. “All he gets now is a little bit of itchiness, the honey has alleviated [the asthma].”
After falling in love with beekeeping, the family now has 50 hives of 50,000 bees each and processes the sweet stuff at a facility in Lebanon Borough. They produce raw honey as well as honey infused with superfoods such as matcha, beetroot and ginger.
On their landlords at Chelsea Market, Kam Johnson noted, “They’ve been super flexible and really generous. We know a lot of business owners who struggled with their landlord, but we can’t say enough about how cooperative they’ve been.”