When New York City legalized beekeeping in 2010, Ruth Harrigan got her first two hives and was hooked. Twelve years later her hobby is a business, churning thousands of pounds of organic honey blends in Great Neck.
Her business HoneyGramz, which opened its storefront in October, grew out of a passion for beekeeping that Harrigan, 57, of Douglaston, Queens, developed when her day job was working for a hedge fund in Manhattan. She took a class on beekeeping and “I was sold,” she said.
The hedge fund folded in 2013 and she decided to make a go at doing what she loved. Today she estimates she buys 8,000 pounds of honey a year to augment the 400 pounds her own hives produce.
Tending to bee colonies offers an escape from daily pressures, Harrigan said.
“It’s very easy to lose yourself with the bees,” she said. “It is very calming. You focus on nothing but the bees, and it’s rarely during the day in doing any other activity can you shut your mind off to the outside world and not think about anything but one thing.”
HoneyGramz started in neighboring Douglaston, where Harrigan tends to her bee colonies — she has 14 in Douglaston and manages six others in Brooklyn and Staten Island — and has grown over the years. Until she opened her shop on Long Island, she said she sold to retailers and online. This week, her New York honey will hit the shelves at the Taste of New York store at the Long Island Welcome Center on the eastbound Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills. Taste of New York is a state program that features New York-produced agricultural products.
“We’re always excited about bringing on new vendors,” said Amy Lesh, Taste of New York market manager at the Long Island location between Exits 51 and 52. Harrigan’s honey is eligible to be sold there because “she’s using New York State honey and she’s processing in New York State,” Lesh said.
The nation’s annual honey consumption hit a record 618 million pounds last year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. More than half of the honey consumed in the United States is imported, while an estimated 115,000 to 125,000 domestic beekeepers produce the rest, according to the Colorado-based National Honey Board, a trade association. Most beekeepers are hobbyists with fewer than 25 hives, according to the association.
Harrigan said she had been looking for a new home for her business for six months when her husband saw a for-rent sign on the shop on Great Neck Road while bicycling. She met with the landlord the next day and signed on the spot, she said.
Last month she got a call about a swarm of bees at a residence in Plandome Heights. Harrigan and her husband removed the swarm and gave them a new home at her bee yard in Douglaston.
Harrigan makes blends of honey in the back of the shop in small batches of 30 pounds at a time, blending pure honey with organic ingredients like ginger or turmeric — stressing that the company doesn’t adulterate its honey with other sweeteners like corn syrup.
“Ginger honey is not ginger flavoring,” she said. “It’s ground up, dehydrated pure organic ginger root. That’s what gives a real strong taste.”
Harrigan’s newest flavor is honey with chocolate and pomegranate, introduced last year for Valentine’s Day.
“We found out that chocolate and pomegranate separately are two products that are known to be aphrodisiacs, so just for fun we decided to blend them together,” she said. “It’s unlike anything you’ve tasted before.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of HoneyGramz, a Great Neck-based business.
SWEET ON HONEY
The United States is the second-largest consumer of honey in the world, after China
The nation’s honey consumption hit a record 618 million pounds in 2021.
The United States is the sixth-leading honey producer in the world.
Domestic honey production has fallen over the past 30 years as imports have increased.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture