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Early History

Phil Hempel, Blossomland Bee Supply's owner, began business in 1988 by selling beekeeping supplies to local Berrien County, Michigan, 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 Austin, Texas, 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.

Fire 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 Berrien Center, 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 Japan, France, 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 smoke rising.

The 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 Canada 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 in Buchanan, 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 front entry.

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.

More Changes

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 USA and Canada.

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

 

 

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