By Dick Turanski, Founder and President, GloryBee Foods
I was first introduced to beekeeping when I was about 10 years old and lived in Ohio. My uncle had me help him smoke hives while he took off the honey. I was re-introduced to beekeeping in 1971 by Warren Ausland. He invited my friend, Karl Dennison and I to his house one afternoon. We helped take honey off one of his hives, took it to his garage and we had the opportunity to taste this honey right from the comb. His hives were at Bald Butte in South Eugene and it was poison oak honey. At my first tasting of this sweet, buttery flavored honey, I knew I wanted to be a beekeeper.
Beginning in the fall of 1974, I made the decision to start a new business and become a full-time beekeeper. I needed to purchase equipment and the local hardware store was too expensive. I started to drive to Portland for my supplies. I found out that the company there would give me a dealership and I could buy all my beekeeping supplies from them for 25% off their list price.
This is how I got the idea to start selling beekeeping supplies. The name of my business was Dick’s Bee Supplies. About Jan-Feb 1975, a friend of mine said that he had the name of my business. He introduced me to the new name GloryBee. I rejected the name originally because it sounded too similar to some words I heard in the bible, although it was spelled differently. Glory Be to God. So I thought about it as a religious name, I realized that the name had a dual meaning – not only a spiritual meaning, but a reference to the amazing bee.
A guy named Slim Barrett, he was tall and lanky, from Greenleaf, Oregon approached me and said he could build boxes, tops and bottoms and sell them to me at really good prices. He was my wooden ware supplier for a few years. The beekeeping supply business expanded greatly after I got into it because I found where I could buy supplies more directly and at reasonable prices to be competitive.
We set up a small store in our garage in the fall of 1974, located at 1635 River Road. We talked to our landlord to get permission to knock out a wall in our house to put in a man door. We put a free standing sign out on River Road saying Beekeeping Supplies sold here. We sold honey out of the garage out of bulk honey tanks. We had a total of 2 acres, the house on one end and a shed, where we kept the beekeeping supplies on the other. We were not in a “neighborhood”, so what neighbors we did have didn’t complain with all the foot traffic on and off of our property.
I got to be busier and busier, from taking care of the bees, the burden of running the store. In 1977, we began to print a full catalog and mail it throughout the Pacific Northwest. By 1977, I was known as a regional beekeeping supplier and this started our mail-order business.
I was able to purchase all the manufacturing equipment from another business that was in financial trouble and made a business deal with people to run the business building woodenware and for them to make lease payments after it got set up. They rented a building off of West 11th and spent about $7,000 to get things set up in that building. Within 30-60 days, they went bankrupt. Here I was, I had gotten a SBA loan for all this equipment and it was back on my lap. This was about 1983. This is when I decided I would set up the equipment and develop my own factory to manufacture beekeeping supplies. This was right across the street from the store at 1006 Arrowsmith. We now had two locations. We set up a factory to manufacture all the beekeeping supplies. This was during a deep recession. I ended up for 12-18 people working for me depending on the time of the year and the season. People were ready willing and wanted to work for me. I ran the manufacturing with Jim Davis was the manager. We made a lot of beekeeping supplies. We made boxes, frames, tops and bottoms, pollen traps, and slatted racks.
Mid-way through that period of running the factory, we were able to purchase a good box making machine, which elevated us to selling nationally and even internationally, shipping to Germany and a few other countries around the world.
We closed the manufacturing plant in June 1988. I made a deal with another businessman to purchase all the equipment from us in trade for supplying us bee boxes. I would make weekly trips to the Medford to make deliveries, and pick up beekeeping supplies and stock pile them in the storage building. After 5-6 years, he had paid me back in full and we continued to get our beekeeping supplies from him for several years after that.
We work to find the various beekeeping supplies from various manufacturers from around the world. We are currently one of the top 10 suppliers of beekeeping supplies in the United States.
We feel like we want to stay true to our roots. Beekeeping is part of the root of our business and we want to maintain that. It keeps us connected with the beekeepers. We understand and have a great compassion for the beekeeping industry. Why, because the beekeeping industry, if it wasn’t for the men and women that go out and maintain these hives, we wouldn’t have the honey. We know how challenging it is to be a beekeeper. They are some of the hardest working people on the planet. It is more challenging today, than when I was beekeeping, because of the mites and colony collapse disorder. By continuing to sell beekeeping supplies we are supporting the local and regional beekeepers, who are the foundation of our honey industry.