Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anthony's Beehive

..::As published on the William Allen White Website 7.27.06::..

Thousands of bees hummed quietly on the cool humid morning outside of Anthony Schwager's family residence, while he sat at the dining room table with his siblings stuffing clear packages with honey sticks and applying "Anthony's Beehive" labels to honey lip balm.

Thursday morning meant a little more work for the recent Lawrence High School graduate, who had to make deliveries of his home-grown honey to several retailers later that day, but that was just fine with him.

"Anthony started out doing bees as a hobby because he saw a video at school. Tony Schwager, Anthony's father, said. "We put him off for a while, but he was really insistent so we got him a couple beehives."

"He's 19 now and he has some [developmental] disabilities that prevent him from having a lot of different career choices. He's kind of latched onto this and he's doing real well," he added.

Tony said Anthonys products are now being sold in over 60 stores including Walgreens, Checkers, Miller-Mart and Zarco, and 40 other stores have signed-on including the University Book Shop, KU Bookstores and Hyvee.

With all that business, Tony says, they can hardly keep up.

"The amount of hives we have hovers around 60," he said. "Sometimes you find a hive that died. Or you might combine two hives, or split two hives, or you might catch a swarm. The goal is to get a lot more. To keep expanding what we're doing."

Still, while Anthony's products are buzzing in some of Lawrence's largest retail stores, he prefers the local Farmers Market.

"His favorite thing seems to be dealing with the customers at market," Tony said. "He really likes to go to market, dealing with the other vendors, and dealing with the customers. He's really important to the market."

"He's about famous in Lawrence, we go to a restaurant and people go, Oh hey you're the honey guy! or Hey, you're Anthony!" added Anthony's father, smiling at him.

While they say the business is still new, the Schwager family, which includes Anthony, his parents Tony and Teri, brothers Adam and Brandon and sister Mariah, produces approximately 3,000 pounds of honey a year. With 60 hives, each containing approximately 50,000 Euro-Italian bees, Anthony can expect to harvest 100 pounds from each of hive in a good year.

Honey is harvested once a year, Tony says, usually starting after the fourth of July and finishing up before Labor Day.

"The bears I make now are really light in color," Tony said. "Honey tends to get a little darker when it sits, especially when it sits in plastic. We like to have nice, light, fresh honey."

"Anthony's disability is just not going to allow him to do some stuff, so he's got a deal here all set up where he can do something he really enjoys, make a good living, have some dignity and be important," said Tony.

"Also," his father added, "he always has the best honey at the fair."

Last year, Anthony was one of the National Foundation of Teachings Entrepreneurs of the Year, which won both him and his parents a trip to New York.


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