There are a tremendous number of unique small businesses in Oxford County, but one might ‘bee’ the most technical. Chris Mailloux and his wife Dawn Marie have been beekeepers since 2017 and operate The Great Canadian Honey Company in South West Oxford Township.
“I’ve always had this interest in bees. The more that I have learned about bees, the more the world opens in the sense that you have more to learn,” says Chris, who can’t speak enough about the support he has received from Oxford County. He even got his start from a competitor. “I got into bees five years ago from John at Oxford Honey who lives a few minutes down the road. What’s great about doing business inside Oxford is the excellent resources. John has been in the bee trade for probably 50 years. He is a wealth of knowledge and loves to help. I have had so much backing starting my business.
Chris says there are always highs and lows in the honey business, and it is much more scientific than people think. “That’s the nature of how this hobby works. You have to be okay with a lot of swings, highs, and lows. We started this year off with 30 hives and were up to 110 and now we are sitting at 65. We need 55 hives to maintain the amount of honey we are currently selling. Queens are always trying to kill themselves in a sense, they are always winding down, so I have to change them out and know what the bees are doing at a certain time. I also graft queen cells and get them mated and keep the bees alive by stopping mites. It gets technical really fast.”
The business is still in the infant stage, meaning Chris works as an electrician at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada in Woodstock where he has been for 15 years. “There are days when I am barely home come warmer weather. I drive to hives here, check on hives there, so I am putting in about 80 hours a week.”
The Great Canadian Honey Company really is family oriented, and Chris makes the most out of the large flock at home. “I do most of the bee work and my wife and kids handle the Woodstock Farmer’s Market and prepare the orders. All four of our kids are heavily involved and they have been inside the bee suits.”
The honey company has expanded, adding Polar Freeze which is a business born from solving a problem. “In our futile attempts in finding a local business capable of freeze-drying fruit that we could then put in our honey; Polar Freeze was created. It began in the summer of 2020 by our then 17-year-old daughter. She has expanded and grown her small business into a thriving part of our company. What started as a way to help her family, quickly became so much more. We produce freeze dried local fruit and sweet treats in our public health inspected kitchen.”
As for what’s potentially coming next, Chris says they are looking at a few new products. “The berries in our blueberry honey comes from a local farm where my kids work where we have some of our hives. We thought that is we had a local product with the honey inside five minutes away, what’s better than that?” Chris says he is also working with an area cherry farm to produce a tart on sweet version of the honey product. “We have also branched out into making and selling Nuc’s.” A Nuc is a term used in beekeeping to describe a small colony of four or more frames of brood, a few bees (workers), a queen, and some honey stores. They are used as starter colonies for those interested in starting the hobby.