The continued presence of a global pandemic that deals in keeping a distance and not gathering in large groups has been a hazard for many industries. One that maybe doesn’t come to mind right away: the local crafting scene.
Artisans, makers, creators—really, any kind of crafter, have been forced to reckon with a year devoid of craft shows and fairs—the common, and sometimes primary, source of income for those who depend on selling their creations for their livelihood. It’s a sorry situation for makers and lovers of unique, handmade goods alike.
But as is usually the case with the human spirit, when forced to come face-to-face with the absence of one thing, something new usually springs eternal in its place. Enter The Bee Hive, the newly-opened, all-handmade store on First Avenue across from Central Park.
The shop opened late last fall after owner and crafter Belinda Jepsen saw the building become vacant and had the itch to start something new. Jepsen’s husband owns Premier Auto nearby, and the two were familiar with the lot as a storage spot for Premier’s tow trucks and equipment. It was only after Jepsen thought about creating a space to showcase local art that the idea for The Bee Hive came to fruition.
“I’ve always liked arts and crafts, mostly quilting,” Jepsen said. “We thought it would be nice to have a place to showcase art year-round and for vendors to have the chance to display their items more than just three or four times a year at a craft show.”
The Bee Hive officially opened last October and has experienced a steady influx of vendors and customers ever since. The beauty of the store is that it gives makers an opportunity to sell their creations to a broader audience. Right now, Jepsen said the store is featuring products from 20 to 25 different vendors. She purchases the items at a discount or wholesale price, then resells them in the store. It’s a business model that benefits both the maker and the purchaser of every handcrafted item The Bee Hive has on display.
“There’s not necessarily a theme or criteria to what we sell,” Jepsen said. “it just all has to be handmade by the artist. Pretty much anything I think is unique, cool, or different we’ll try to feature.”
Some of those items include large wicker baskets Jepsen found from a vendor in North Dakota, crochet hand towels, handmade cards, etched glassware, jewelry, and the ever-popular wooden signs. True to its name, The Bee Hive also sells beeswax candles and honey from local beekeepers, but the presence of those items isn’t how the store got its name.
Jepsen and her husband have been married for 34 years. One of his favorite nicknames for her has always been “Bee.”
“We have a building behind our house where I would do crafts,” Jepsen said. “My husband made me a sign that said ‘Bee’s Hive,’ and we put it on the building. When we had the idea for this retail space, I just thought we had to incorporate that somehow.”
In addition to her husband, other family members of Jepsen’s also play a crucial role in The Bee Hive’s success. Her daughter-in-law, Hannah, is a naturally crafty person, Jepsen said, and has been an enormous support to have around as the store opened. Plus, Jepsen’s granddaughter, also named Hannah (she refers to the two as Big Hannah and Little Hannah, respectively), has taken to running the store’s Facebook page, talking to customers, and going live on social media whenever The Bee Hive has something important to announce.
“I absolutely love having family around,” Jepsen said. “They love helping, and I love having them here.”
Though business is steadily growing despite opening during the pandemic, Jepsen said she continues to have high hopes and big plans for her handmade store. New vendors are always welcome to join the group Jepsen lovingly refers to as her “busy bees” (The Bee Hive serving as the place for vendors to show off their “busy work”). Makers of any variety can contact Jepsen via the store’s Facebook page or by simply stopping in on a Saturday during business hours if they’re interested in becoming a vendor.
Other ideas, such as art classes, a self-serve coffee bar, and a grab-and-go craft section where customers can purchase a kit to make their own creations at home, are all things Jepsen would someday like to incorporate at The Bee Hive, she said.
But for now, the focus of The Bee Hive remains on its customers and vendors—offering a unique place to shop local and bring art home one crochet hand towel or beeswax candle at a time.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s wonderful to have a store like this in Aberdeen where you can see other people’s work,” Jepsen said. “I’m just hoping we can stick around for a long while and feature new vendors all the time.”
The Bee Hive is open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturdays. For more information, visit their facebook group.