After many years of steadily ramping up over-the-counter sales, the Queen Bee Gardens honey candy company of Lovell has taken the full plunge into retail sales by opening a new storefront on Main Street in Lovell.
Queen Bee has opened the storefront at 244 E. Main, just two doors down from the factory at 262 E. Main.
Jason Zeller, grandson of founders Clarence and Bessie Zeller and son of co-owner Gene Zeller, said this week that an expanded product line has helped the company sell to a growing base of walk-in customers over the years, and indeed, the line of items offered at the new store is impressive.
The product line includes honey in containers of various shapes and sizes, honey sticks, whipped honey, small candy bites and patties, a full variety of traditional honey candy, truffles, haystacks, English toffee, honeymoons, official Rose City chocolate roses and various gift boxes. Also for sale are honey cookbooks and t-shirts.
The new store is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For years the Zellers operated their honey candy factory at the family farm east of Lovell, but after a fire claimed the factory in the early 1990s they moved operations to the old Rose City Food Farm grocery store building on Main Street.
“We’ve always sold a little over the counter, and when they (Bessie, Clarence, Gene and Von) sold enough over the counter on Main Street to make the rent payment they were happy about that.
The retail sales portion of the business has grown steadily since then, aided in recent years by the ability to hire more employees.
“Dad (Gene) would run the cutting and wrapping machine and help customers at the same time,” Jason said. “I can’t imagine doing something like that. It’s almost impossible to do.”
About six or seven years ago, the family made a concerted effort to expand over-the-counter sales, Zeller said, adding, “We started trying to push things out the front door instead of just shipping things.”
The Zellers bought the old Rocky’s Too building from Loretta Bischoff to use for storage, then added the next building to the west that housed “That Place” operated by Peggy Rohrer. With new machinery taking up retail space in the factory building, the family gave Rohrer six-months notice about a year ago that they would be taking over the building.
“We started working on the new storefront in January,” Zeller said, noting that the move was necessitated, in part, by the addition of a new flow wrapper that took up some new space in the factory.
“It wasn’t a lot of space, but it was just enough, kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. “We saw a decline in efficiency, and that steamrolled in a month. We got the machine on Memorial Day a year ago and knew by July that we needed to move in here.”
So as not to have to add personnel, both April Christensen and Peggy Fowler have moved their offices to the new storefront, and now that some space has freed up at the factory, the company has been able to add a new enrober, a machine that dips chocolate.
The new storefront also contains the conference room/lunch room, though Zeller said the south end remains a work in progress. Some new furniture is still to arrive, although all of the shelving and display cases are in full use.
Customers can see the new store and taste the latest flavors of candy at the Queen Bee Gardens annual tasting and sampling party this Saturday, June 28, from noon to 2 p.m. following the Mustang Days Parade.
Zeller emphasized that the company has not moved but merely has expanded. There is no more retail selling at the factory building, though candy production continues full steam ahead. All retail sales and gift box ordering is at 244 E. Main.
By David Peck