Phil Hempel, Blossomland Bee Supply's owner, began business in
1988 by selling beekeeping supplies to local
beekeepers like himself so that, as a group, they could realize better
discounts. As the demand grew, Phil added more products and lines to the goods
he kept on hand.
By 1994 the hobby-gone-wild had grown to such an extent that he
opened an 18,000 square foot structure with a retail location offering more
than 16000 items and a warehouse. Phil shared the facility with two other
beekeepers, who still support the business in a variety of ways today. Ed
Philips and Jim Baerwald remain the most loyal of friends and business
associates. They combined their efforts to offer honey extracting and the
processing of beeswax to local beekeepers. They bottled their own honey and
produced a variety of sizes of beeswax block and bought the excess produced by
the other local beekeepers, and offered it for sale in the store. The honey was
popular not only with the area residents but with many of the area markets and
wholesalers as well.
Going to the American Bee Federation 1994 National Meeting held in
proved to be a highlight of those early years. Not only was Phil's youngest
daughter Rachel chosen as National Queen, but his honey won a 3rd place ribbon,
judged on overall quality, clarity and goodness. This national recognition was
a milestone in the hobbyist's beekeeping experience.
In addition to the honey and beekeeping supplies and equipment,
Phil sold the beeswax in bulk and offered a variety of colored craft wax sheets
for rolled candles. Hand-crafted candles and candle making equipment were added
to the inventory until Blossomland was truly the place to find "everything
from our hives to your homes."
One of the earliest online shops, Blossomland went live in 1996
and with the addition of www.blossomland.com online many more people throughout
the world soon began to take notice of the little store with the big commitment
to customer service.
Threatens Future of Blossomland
By the spring of 1999, an area newspaper featured a story touting
a little business with a store front on a rural road in tiny
Blossomland Bee Supply as one venturing out into the relatively new and unknown
world of e-commerce. Already Phil's hobby-gone-wild was attracting
international attention with orders for beeswax and beekeeping supplies coming
in from such far away places as
Saudi Arabia and Yeman.
On December 9th of that same year, as Phil locked the door of the
store he was pleased that all his hard work over the previous decade was about
to pay off. The year was about to show a genuine profit. Early the next morning
he was to receive a call from his sister and as he walked outside his home and
looked in the direction of the shop, not 5 miles away, Phil could see dense
Little Shop That Would Not Die
Blossomland's customer base however, was as loyal then as it is
today. They would not let the business disappear. The web-store, that had been
the focus of that springtime news article, would quietly continue and grow over
the next several years. Local beekeepers would continue to find Phil at the
office he now operated out of his little century-old farmhouse in the country.
Beekeeper and friend Ron Dahlke, joined Phil's previous associates in helping
Phil continue to manage his hives and helped with that extraction in addition
to their own during the years that followed the fire.
In 2001, amid the continuing horror of insurance filings and
financial hardships resulting from the disastrous fire, Phil, a bachelor of
more than 20 years, met Kathie. They married in 2002 and she and her elderly
father moved from
to join Phil and Blossomland.
Early in their marriage, Kathie was taking an exploratory drive
through nearby Berrien Springs, when she saw an old sign over what had once
been the village flower shop. Returning home, she teased her husband, "Do
you want to tell me what YOUR sign is doing deserted over the old flower shop?"
Phil laughed, but Kathie would not let go of the idea that the beautiful
'Blossomland Floral' with its raised wood lettering covered in gold leaf, was
meant for the small bee business.
That same sign, refurbished and reading Blossomland Bee Supply,
now hangs over the door of the Blossomland retail location at
999 West Front Street
Michigan. The Hempels had moved into their
residence in Buchanan in January of 2004, still operating the business out of
the Berrien Springs farmhouse.
Taking another exploratory drive with a friend, through her new
hometown, Kathie and pal Esther Jones spotted a former medical center building
empty. It was fate. The paint on the building matched the old floral sign
perfectly. Just blocks from their home the location was perfect, not only for
its proximity to the house, but for its convenience to a local walk-in customer
base with plenty of parking for beekeepers and the ability to have a couple of
hives on location for beekeeping classes.
The couple leased the building in May of 2004, doing renovations
and purchasing inventory. And of course, Kathie had to go and buy that sign!
Over the holidays the refurbished sign was raised to its new position above the
At the end of September that same year, Kathie’s father, Lloyd
Franklin Turner passed away at their home four days into his 100th
year. He is greatly missed.
Following her father’s death, Kathie returned to doing some
freelance writing and wrote for the local newspapers which she still does while
assisting Phil with Blossomland.
By the spring of 2006, as record bee losses continued throughout
the world and as the economy began to take a turn downward, the overhead of the
storefront was no longer feasible. Phil and Kathie obtained a special use
license and moved Blossomland into their century plus-old home just down the street
from where the storefront had been.
Phil's Dad died on October 12, 2006. But even now Mom/Addie still comes by to bag candy, bottle honey and price
items as they come in the door. Phil's youngest son Derek, who from childhood has assisted his dad, married his girlfriend,
Sarah Wiggins, in a beautiful celebration August 30, 2008. They continue on in
their respective careers of construction steel work and law enforcement. The
couple’s other children and grandchildren are scattered across the
Kathie, in addition to continuing with freelance writing, helps Phil as well.
Today tradition continues at Hempel House. Each morning the couple
begins the day with a Bible study and prayer believing that life is best when
God leads the way.
Here at Blossomland we count each of you, our customers and
friends among our many blessings. Thank you for your support and loyalty.
~ Phil and Kathie