After some 70 years at the farm west of Lovell, the Zeller and Sons Honey processing operation will be moving to a new building on the Cannery Road southeast of Cowley.
Zeller and Sons is the “honey end” of the Zeller Family honey and candy operation, closely related to Queen Bee Honey Candy. Queen Bee’s candy factory and retail storefront will remain in Lovell, company partner Ben Zeller said.
Zeller said the new honey building has been in the works for two to three years. At one point the family thought they had found some property, but that deal fell through and they were “back to square one.”
He said he talked to an engineer about what the family wanted in the way of a building, so when they found the nine-acre Cannery Road property next to the Wilson Brothers Construction office, “we had the design done and were ready to move forward,” he said, adding that digging began about a month after the property purchase was finalized.
The new Zeller and Sons building is a 13,500-square foot steel building that is one-third heated working area and two-thirds storage. Currently, the honey operation is “scattered among several buildings” at the former Clarence and Bessie Zeller farm, so not only will the new building bring the honey processing much closer to the candy factory and the homes of most family members, it will also be more efficient and easier on equipment.
Currently, Zeller said, the honey operation uses one building at the Zeller farm for honey extracting and boxes, another to store surplus honey in barrels and a third for miscellaneous storage of bee boxes, pollen traps and the like. Barrels now stored outside will be able to be stored inside at the new location, extending their life.
The new building is about four miles west of Lovell, whereas the Zeller farm is seven miles east of Lovell and then about two miles off the highway.
“We’ll be storing boxes and barrels of honey, but no bees,” Zeller emphasized. “We’ll have a hot room to warm the ‘super boxes’ prior to extraction so the honey flows. With the new facility we’re excited because we’ll have heated floors so we can heat from the bottom up rather than trying to push the heat down.”
Zeller said the extraction equipment will be moved to the new building over the winter while the bees are “on vacation” in California. The Zellers ship the bee colonies to the warmer state to decrease loss during the winter season.
In the winter the building will be used for fixing, painting, maintaining and making new bee boxes, and after the hives are placed out in the field next summer, the bee boxes will be taken to the Cowley building at the end of the season, rather than to the farm, Zeller said.
“We also have a room set aside for bottling honey, but it will take a couple of years before we get the equipment set up,” he added.
Bairco Construction is the general contractor on the project, Zeller said, with Charlie Cooley as the project manager. Zeller and Sons bought the property during the spring and started construction in late June/early July after Bairco completed their own building just down the road.
“It’s basically done,” Zeller said. “We’ll be moving equipment over the winter. By next fall we’ll be extracting out there.”
By David Peck