This Suffolk honey maker has just launched a brand-new onsite bakehouse
- Credit: Archant
Beekeeper and ex-pastry chef Mark Mills of Black Dog Apiaries took just three weeks to set up his latest venture.
Brampton-based beekeepers Mark and Sapphire Mills, owners of Black Dog Apiaries, celebrated the grand opening their Black Dog Bakehouse this weekend – which sells an array of freshly-baked goods crafted from their locally-sourced honey.
Founded in September 2019, Black Dog Apiaries has gone from strength-to-strength since its inception – due in part to Mark’s expertise and dedication when it comes to keeping bees.
“I started beekeeping in 2014, where I attended the local British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) club Waveney Beekeepers Group in Barsham, Beccles, as well as starting two colonies of my own,” he explained.
As the years went on, Mark gained a number of BBKA qualifications that helped him better understand the management and proficiency of bee colonies, allowing him to increase his yields year on year.
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“It was during the September 2019 season that we saw the number of colonies go up from 48, to just over 100. We then decided to go from being hobbyist beekeepers to commercial ones, and join the Bee Farmers Association. With my wife Sapphire coming on board, she helped me run all aspects of the company.
“We are now at a stage where we are fully sustainable. We breed our own bees and queens from our selected stock, and we no longer need to import or source externally.”
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Following on from the success of Black Dog Apiaries, the husband-and-wife duo created a range of baked goods and confectionary that exclusively uses their own honey.
“We launched this February this year – it was a huge success, selling direct and wholesale to over 20 retail outlets,” added Mark.
Shortly after however, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown happened – and while many businesses took a considerable hit, Black Dog Apiaries actually saw an increase in its sales.
“We had a steep rise in both interest and sales, with everyone choosing to shop local and supporting small independent businesses due to stocking issues with larger retail shops and supermarkets. This is when we decided to launch a weekly home delivery service for customers in the local area who were isolating, or just couldn’t get the products they wanted from the shops.”
With many of the larger retailers now trading as normal, Mark and Sapphire diversified their honey business once again, and took on a new unit in Brampton, allowing the two to expand their offering.
“We moved into our new unit in the up-and-coming Sotterley Food Hub on Saturday August 1, where we have since turned it into our seasonal honey processing unit and full-time bakehouse. Having previously been a pastry chef and baker, I had all of the resources and suppliers, so was therefore able to set up very quickly.”
Black Dog Bakehouse launched a few weeks later on Saturday August 22, is now open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 4pm, and Monday to Friday by appointment only.
It will sell Black Dog’s honey, artisan granola and a range of baked goods including fudge, shortbread, cakes and savoury items.
“Our opening weekend went really well. We were providing home deliveries during lockdown, and when we got this place we decided to knock that on the head as people weren’t relying on us that much anymore - so all of the people that we had on our delivery rounds came in to support us - they love what we do and the idea of the bakehouse.
“Some of our biggest sellers that day were our sausage rolls, the honey tart, the chocolate hazelnut brownie and of course our granola and pots of honey.”
With a successful opening weekend behind them, what does the future hold for pair of the local honey makers?
“Going forward, the bakehouse will continue to provide baked goods, cakes, lunch, tea and coffee, as well as working with other collectives at the future development of Sotterley Food Hub.
“Also, dependent on the easing of social distancing, early summer next year we are looking to launch our beekeeping apiary tours and short courses. It will be a great way for members of the public to gain an insight into the world of beekeeping, and hopefully start their own journey into keeping bees.”
Watch this space...