Former employees bring Babe’s Honey back

Historic local brand produced in Saanichton, sold in Saanich

Babe’s Honey co-owners Brendan Bull

A familiar name is creating buzz around Saanich.

After a tumultuous year in the spotlight for criminal allegations against its former owner, Babe’s Honey is back on the bright side. In fact, the historic local brand never really went away.

The honey farm’s former operations manager, Brandon Schwartz, along with friends and former employees, bought the Babe’s Honey trademark and recently relaunched the brand

“We never stopped (working),” Schwartz said. “We just kept on going, but there was a massive amount of work to do. We weren’t exactly sure how things were going to take shape so we tried to keep things nice and quiet. We figured when we were ready, we’d let everybody know what we’ve been doing.”

The new Babe’s team – Kevin Van Herwaarden, Brendan Bull, Schwartz’ father Bob Schwartz and queen bee breeder Bob Mitchell – have 170 bee colonies on the Saanich Peninsula. Babe’s is operating from a bee-tight building (no bees can fly out, and no unwanted bees can come in) in Saanichton, as well as in the retail space at Galey Farms, where their products are sold.

Babe’s went into receivership in February 2011 following the December 2010 arrest of former owner Mark Pitcher of Pitcher & Associates Public Accountants Inc. Pitcher was accused of seven counts of fraud over $5,000, totalling $956,945.

It is alleged that between April 1, 2004 and May 19, 2010, Pitcher told clients they owed money to the Receiver General of Canada and used the funds to finance either Babe’s Honey Farm or his accounting firm.

Joiner Sales Corp. of Abbotsford submitted a winning bid and took possession of the farm’s assets last May, but before the auction took place, Joiner sold the bees and the brand to Schwartz, for an undisclosed price.

Babe’s is experiencing about a 12-per-cent death rate among bees. With recent losses on Vancouver Island of upwards of 30 per cent, Schwartz is hopeful for the season ahead.

“This year we’re going to have a really good crop,” Schwartz said. “The bees are in really good shape this year.”

The public response to the Babe’s revival has been “overwhelmingly positive,” he added.

“That’s a common comment we get: ‘We missed Babe’s Honey and we’re glad you’re back.’ … We’re not looking at the past now. We’re looking to the future,” Schwartz said.

Babe’s honey (bottled and in bulk), soap and candles are available daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Galey Farms store, 4150 Blenkinsop Rd. Babe’s vinegar will soon be added to the list of products available.

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