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Hub for beekeepers sticking around in Sebastopol

If you go

What: Beekind

Where: 921 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays

Phone: 707-824-2905

Online: Beekind.com

The display that gets the most buzz at the Beekind shop is the honey bar, where there are free samples of about 50 different types of honey.

There’s even a chart for customers to figure out the different tastes in the honey. Nutty, floral, fruity, earthy, carmel, chocolate, herbal.

“We really focus on high-quality, raw honey,” said Katia Vincent, owner of Beekind along with her husband, Doug.

A hub for beekeepers and consumers in search of natural, local products for health reasons or for unique gifts, Beekind opened 16 years ago in Sebastopol and has grown into a community resource on backyard beekeeping.

Its 50 honeys are local, regional and international. Honeys called Petaluma starthistle, California sage, Pacific Northwest blueberry. “There are lots of choices and ways to do beekeeping,” Vincent said.

Depending on the type of honey and size, prices typically range from $4.50 to $45. The smallest size offered are 3-ounce jars and the largest size are 64-ounces.

Outside of honey, there are a variety of other gift products. There’s a stock of The Naked Bee products like beeswax lip balm for $3.25 and scented lotions that can be sampled. There’s even $12 Bee Manly beard balm tins for sale.

Several sizes of honey dippers are available, including a cherry wood one that can come with a matching cheese board and spreader set.

There are pure beeswax candles, the majority made by Doug Vincent, in a multitude of shapes, including little owls, pine cones, beehives, a bear on a beehive, trees, roses, sunflowers and cylinder, star and hexagon pillars. A sign by the candles says the beeswax “eliminates negative ions that improve air quality by eliminating pollutants and allergens.”

The store sells organic teas, natural soaps, and popular, customized corporate gifts and wedding favors. Another popular item at Beekind are the creamed honeys, which are processed to control crystallization. Some of the creamed honeys have infused flavors like green chilies and lavender.

On the beekeeping side of the store, there are copies of Bee Culture magazine, shelves of wooden beekeeping equipment parts, white bee suits, a selection of beekeeping books and on display is “The Secret Life of Bees,” a novel by Sue Monk Kidd.

“[Beekind is] unique in that they have such a range of things to offer,” said Ettamarie Peterson, past president and current newsletter editor of the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association.

Peterson, who owns Peterson’s Farm in Petaluma with her husband, purchases sheets of beeswax from Beekind that can be rolled into candles, a fun project she does with kids as a 4-H beekeeping leader.

She also takes foreign beekeepers whoa re visiting the Bay Area to Beekind, the only honey and beekeeping shop in the North Bay.

As a beekeepers’ hub, Peterson said Beekind is partially credited by local beekeepers with increasing the number of members of the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association, which is about 500 members strong. The Vincents answer questions and help guide customers to beekeeping resources, keeping interest in bees in the community.

“They’re really good, warmhearted, kind people and the name Beekind is a reflection on them. They are the kindest people,” said Peterson, who has bought a bee presentation display from the store.

The Vincent couple became beekeepers 20 years ago when they realized their home garden needed pollinators to thrive.

The store opened 2004 at the 921 Gravenstein Highway S. location where they’ve been since, around the same time as the “honeybee crash.” During the winter of 2007-08, honeybee colonies lost an estimated 35.8% of its population, according to a Federation of American Scientists report. The loss was attributed to honey bee colony collapse disorder, caused by pesticides, parasites or viruses and other stresses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Since they first opened, the Vincents have expanded the store three times to accommodate growing interest in backyard beekeeping and honey products. They started with 20 different kinds of honey in a small room and now have 50 kinds.

“I thought I was going to sit there and play guitar and sell honey,” said Vincent, reflecting on their humble beginnings. “I never got to play the guitar because right from the get-go there was a lot of interest.”

Beekind had a satellite store at the Embarcadero ferry building in San Francisco that closed last month after nine years in operation.

“It was a prime location, we decided we want to keep our focus here and on our website,” said Vincent, referring to the main Sebastopol location.

The Vincents also take their honey samples to local trade shows, most recently at a Williams Sonoma corporate event. “It’s a lot of fun,” Vincent said.

If you go

What: Beekind

Where: 921 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays

Phone: 707-824-2905

Online: Beekind.com

Before they opened Beekind, Katia Vincent owned a vacuum store, and Doug Vincent worked as a mechanic.

“Nobody’s happy about having to fix their vacuum, but people are very happy about coming in to taste honey and shop for gifts. They love it. We couldn’t ask for a better clientele,” Vincent said.

Customers are also drawn to the health benefits of honey. It’s antimicrobial, anti-bacterial and good for the gut.

Also sold are propolis and manuka honey cough drops. The health benefits inspired Katia Vincent to write a honey mantra, printed on cards sold at the shop:

Honey at bed, sleep all night

Honey on rise, strong and wise

Honey on skin, body will mend

Honey is a gift of love you send

The queen bee stops laying in October and begins again usually on solstice day in December. Honey can be harvested again by February. Honey tastes different depending on where it’s made and when it’s harvested, similar to wine.

In Sonoma County, there’s mustard honey, a creamy and crystallized honey harvested in early March. The bestselling, sweet eucalyptus honey is harvested at the end of May and in June. Blackberry honey is harvested in July.

A rare honeydew honey from local redwood and pine forests, which bees make from a sweet liquid excreted by certain insects, is on the Beekind shelves by October. It’s a darker honey rich in antioxidants, with a chocolate coffee taste.

“I love the eucalyptus honey in coffee. One of my favorite things is putting a little bit of the honeydew honey in spaghetti because it’s really a savory honey,” Vincent said. “There’s just so many things you can do with honey.”

Doug Vincent teaches introduction to beekeeping classes on a few Saturdays a year - Feb. 22, March 14 and Sept. 12 - from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for $15 at Sebastopol Grange Hall No. 308 at 6000 Sebastopol Ave. The three-hour lecture will cover the basics of getting started with bees, how to use beekeeping equipment and first-year expectations.

Beekind will also be hosting demonstrations of live package bee installation during the weekends of April 11-12 and April 18-19 behind the store. It costs about $175 to purchase 10,000 bees plus a queen.

Additional beekeeping classes, including beginner and intermediate levels, are offered by the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association at sonomabees.org.

More information on Beekind, including beekeeping videos and online shopping, at beekind.com.

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