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Here's what customers have said...

TIME: Tuesday, July 23, 2002 12:05:43
Michelle Sonoda

Favorite Flavor: Orange Blossom
Comments: This is the best honey, I recently bought some for my coworkers and someone stopped me the other day to say how great the palmetto honey was. I only wish they had a smaller bear....
Gruwell Apiary
--- Dear Michelle,

Thank you again for your support.
We should have a smaller bear available soon. We will send you an e-mail when the new bears arrive.

The Gruwell Family

08-11-02 The new smaller size bears are here!
Family creates buzz for honey business

By Denise Wolf correspondent

November 18, 2002
For 28-year-old Melissa Gruwell, the comparison of honey to pure gold isn't much of a stretch. The sweet elixir has provided a living for three generations of her family since her grandparents, Carroll and Betty Gruwell, established in 1959 their bee-keeping operation along U.S. 1 just south of Fort Pierce. Carroll Gruwell had learned the business, like most beekeepers do, from his father Orville Gruwell, a farmer from Ottumwa, Iowa. Today, the Fort Pierce-based business maintains several hundred colonies in the citrus groves and flatlands across Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.

Run entirely by family members, theirs is a traditional farm family, absent of titles and driven with an attitude of whatever it takes to get the job done.

During the busiest season -- from February through September -- the five Gruwells often work seven days a week to extract the honey from their many hives.

Apiary founder and grandfather, Carroll Gruwell, remains involved in packing and selling their finest grade honey direct to the public from his home at 4801 Dunn Road along U.S. 1. Although most of their customers are repeat and know the location by heart, a fading sign announces the entrance to the small apiary, inviting customers to "Buzz On In."

"Our business picks up when the Yankees come south," said the elder Gruwell.

Larry Gruwell, 51, Carroll's son and father to Melissa and David, graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in chemical engineering. When he went to college, he didn't intend to make a living with bees. However, it wasn't long before he was drawn back to the farm.

"I worked for about a year before I came back," said Larry Gruwell, who admits some concern for the future of the honey industry because of foreign competition, the introduction of new diseases, which kill off the bees, and the challenges of the area's increasing urbanization.

"You can't make honey out of asphalt," he said.

Jami Yanoski of the National Honey Board says although there are considerable challenges facing the industry, honey production is holding its own as an industry with about 1,600 commercial bee-keeping operations in the United States.

Like the Gruwells', she said, most are family-owned operations that have been passed down through the generations. And like the Gruwells', many are struggling to keep the business afloat.

"We're cautiously optimistic," said Yanoski. "We're especially seeing growth in the varietal honeys like Florida's orange blossom and gallberry varieties."

Yanoski said that a recent study found that honey can still be found in about 87 percent of the nation's households. Since 1980, U.S. honey production has averaged around 200 million pounds per year.

The youngest generation of Gruwells -- Melissa, her brother David Gruwell and cousin Chris Gruwell, both 21 -- is counting on the renewed popularity of the product to carry on the family business.

Under the direction of Carroll and Larry, they produce and sell 55-gallon drums of bakery-grade honey annually to nationally known packers such as Sue Bee Honey, Bee Natural Honey and Grove Honey in a quantity sufficient to provide a living for all involved.

The Gruwell family would not provide specifics about the number of drums produced a year or sales figures for their operation.

Less than two years ago, Melissa Gruwell resigned from a position with the University of Florida and returned home with a master's degree in early learning to join the operation. She, along with Chris and David Gruwell, is leaving no stone unturned in finding new ways to market their product to the growing consumer market along the Treasure Coast.

Recently, Melissa and her mother, Brenda Gruwell, began producing a line of honey-based products such as lip balm, hair conditioner, lotions, as well as bee-wax candles and a line of raw honey and bee pollen. The products often are sold at area events such as Jammin' Jensen in Jensen Beach, the Farmers Market in Fort Pierce and Friday Fest, also in Fort Pierce.

She recently established buzzzonin.com on the Web and is optimistic that the Internet will draw new customers like, well, bees to honey.


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