“Would you like to see a bee being born?” With those intriguing words, owner Phil Gaven graciously welcomed me into The Honey Exchange, where I learned more about bees and honey in a short visit than I knew it was possible to know.
Located in a beautiful converted center-hall cape on Stevens Avenue, The Honey Exchange is a family owned business that is spreading the word about the glory of bees. Whether you are an experienced beekeeper, someone who is interested in bringing bees into your life, a honey lover, a parent, a lover of fine wines, or … well, ok, to be honest I can’t think of anyone who couldn’t benefit from a visit to The Honey Exchange.
Step to the right,and you enter the world of beekeeping. Graven is passionate about bees and will make it easy for you to keep bees right in your own back yard. Not only will he set you up with all the equipment and skills and educate you about the local rules and regs involved in beekeeping (here’s a hint: they’re less work than chickens) but if you want they can also help you enjoy the fruits of your labors by doing the hard and messy part – the honey extraction – for you. They also offer classes in beekeeping and related topics, as well as educational programs for kids (and, honestly, anyone who wants to learn more about bees). The beekeeping room also features a small display where you can watch real bees hard at work (and, if you arrive at the right moment, you too might get to see a bee being born).
Across the hall, the other half of the shop is well-stocked with just about anything you can think of related to bees. There is, of course, quite a lot of honey: local honey, regional honey, exotic honey, chunky honey, light honey, dark honey – each with its own distinct qualities and flavor. There is a honey bar, where you can try some of the honey they sell. (Tip: Try the cheese dipped in honey.) They have a wide assortment of wines, as well as the best selection of meads I’ve ever seen, anywhere. In addition, you’ll find a fine selection of non-alcoholic honey-based drinks for sale.
There is also an extensive section of products for kids — everything from a bee-themed kids umbrella to child-sized beekeeping equipment — along with t-shirts, books, bee jewelry, honeycomb puzzles, picture frames, beeswax candles, even seeds to grow a garden that will be hospitable to bees.
The Honey Exchange also stocks quite a fine selection of personal care products, made by Portland’s own Dr Dandelion, a small company making organic soaps, lotions, lip and hand balms, and a terrific gardener’s hand scrub that gets just about anything off dirty hands. They also sell products by Three Sisters Soap company, including one of the most beautiful molded soaps I’ve ever come across. Raymond-based Bee Blossom Botanicals provides The Honey Exchange with herbal remedies and medicinal compounds.
I walked out of The Honey Exchange feeling almost giddy. Between the bees, the enthusiasm of the owner, the sun drenched rooms, the perfectly astonishing collection of unique and interesting products (Fennel Pollen?), I have to admit I’m more than just a fan of The Honey Exchange. I think I’m now more like an apostle for them. I feel somehow compelled to tell everyone I know where they can find just the perfect thing – the thing they’ve been looking for – because now I know where they can find it.
Go visit. And bring a friend. I promise you’ll walk out with something extraordinary.
The Honey Exchange is located at 494 Stevens Ave in Portland, in a lovely yellow house next to Portland icon Roy’s Shoe Shop. They have an ecommerce website, and you can also Like them on Facebook. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday 10 to 2.
Distance from the Maine State Pier: About 3 miles, as the crow flies (more like 4 as the honeybee flies).
Still can’t find them? Here’s a map!