Bartenders Become Buzzness Partners
From overseas trips to Thailand and Panama to building a 300-gallon backyard irrigation system to practicing their fly-fishing casts, the adventures of Rue de Jean’s Michael Moore and Red Drum’s Eli Wolfe are storied and plenty. Currently, it is their newest business endeavor that is providing them a buzz away from their respective bar scenes. And while most moneymaking ventures involve things like start-up capital, cost analysis and minimized risk/maximized profit … this business plan started with a bet.
“It was golden tomatoes,” said Eli. “We were sitting on the back porch with our neighbor Ed Lapine (of Hall’s Chophouse) and we were talking about who could grow the best tomatoes. We have nine fully-irrigated raised beds in our backyard but it came to us ‘You know what we need, we really need some bees.’” And like that, Eli and Michael took the initial steps to becoming beekeepers.
Initially, Michael and Eli contacted the Charleston Area Beekeepers Association (CABA) for the startup of the venture and found it surprisingly easy. “We called them and it’s a no-brainer,” Michael said. “They have a class, it’s $30 and consists of two eight-hour lectured courses and a half-day out on an actual farm. With that you get a one-year membership to CABA and basically it is a group you can reach out to, of mentors, and you can ask any question about anything to try to help your success.”
The after the initial groundwork, the guys partnered with their newfound 250,000 partners and set about beekeeping as a fulltime endeavor. “Our first batch was through the group and basically a semi truck comes through just full of bees,” Eli said. “There are basically 15,000 bees per each three-pound package.” “It’s real quick, it’s real fast. The truck leaves at one time and knows all of its stops,” Michael continued. “The more you start off with, the healthier they are, the more they build. You start them in Spring and they grow in numbers all through the year, that way when they start back up the following Spring they have big enough numbers to work and fight off predators.”
Their current operation consists of five hives (each hive containing roughly 50,000 bees) located on Meg Moore’s Dirthugger Farm — a five-acre tract of organic farmland on James Island. The small production farm is a welcome home to the bees, with ample plants to collect pollen from. Within the two honey collecting seasons (Spring nectar flow and Winter nectar flow) the five hives are yielding roughly 200 pounds for the Spring and another 100 for the Winter. “But we always leave the comb,” Michael said. “You can harvest it but that makes more work for them. By leaving it the bees have a head start for the next production and they aren’t left with nothing. It just helps bring the hive back stronger, faster.”
With their current yield, they have limited supply for sale to a few accounts but the next step is natural to business — expansion. “We want to try to quadruple the operation,” Michael said. “We want to see if we can get to 20 healthy hives and obviously supply more. But that’s where the whole management of the hives comes in. You know, we get all the time: ‘You’re the guys that make the honey.’ But what we’re really trying to do is make sure these guy