Iconic Christchurch department store Ballantynes has found an unusual way to get customers buzzing. Best-known for its heritage building and prestige retail offering, the company is now selling honey made on the premises by its very own bee colony.
The store’s rooftop is home to four hives and about 40,000 bees, installed by a beekeeper in December 2014.
Ballantynes’ bees are an Italian variety, a passive strain commonly chosen by Cantabrians as they love the climate and tolerate all weather conditions.
A store spokeswoman says the bees only venture within a 5km radius of their rooftop home.
“The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are most likely their preferred place of pollen gathering,” she says.
Not only do the bees make for the perfect houseguest, they also work for the store. Ballantynes bottles their honey and sells it under its own brand, ‘Ballantynes Rooftop Bees’. The main form is chunk honey – the purest form of honeycomb chunks.
The honey is also used in the store’s production kitchen, with the chefs replacing cane sugar with their own honey range.
Liquid honey from the roof is used for make Ballantynes own brand of sweet treats.
The spokeswoman says Ballantynes Rooftop Bees was the brainchild of the store’s maintenance manager.
“Our staff members always come up with fantastic ideas and having bees was exactly that. Mark thought it was a good idea and so we did it.”
A lot of consideration was put into where the bees should live, and their spot on the roof has ample protection from the wind and sun.
The response from the public has been overwhelming.
“Demand is high and for this reason we very much look forward to the bees continuing to be busy with our next harvest, due in the spring.”
The positive feedback from customers has spurred the store on to look at new possibilities for ventures outside the norm.
Up on the roof is also a full herb garden for use in the store’s kitchen, which makes a cosy neighbour for the bees.
“The bees have been such a hit, who know what we might do next?”