A little over two decades ago Kim and Jillian met in Chicago, Illinois. Jillian was a commodity trader, and they were both wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of big city life. They had yet to discover their passion for honey bees that would take them from the urban landscape of Chicago to a quirky mountain town in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina.
Jillian and Kim visited Asheville for a long weekend on the recommendation of a friend, not knowing they would find their forever home in the eccentric little mountain metropolis. It was love at first visit, and after a few more weekend vacations they were sold on leaving the fast pace and cold temperatures of Chicago behind. In exchange they found a city with a slower pace, warm smiles, and community-minded folks just like them.
More Than a Business, a Mission
“We aren’t just a business that sells bee products, we care about bees.” – Jillian + Kim
Years before the move down south Jillian and Kim changed their diets, replacing white refined sugar in their recipes with raw honey instead. This passion for honey in the kitchen blossomed into an interest in bees and pollinators in general. Jillian subsequently took several classes and volunteered at the Garfield Conservatory in Chicago for beekeeping.
In 2014 The Bee Charmer opened its doors for the first time in downtown Asheville. Born out of a passion for honey, a curiosity for bees, a love of cooking, and a yearning for connection to community, the shop has become a staple of the downtown scene. The Bee Charmer sells between 25-35 types of honey depending on the time of year and availability. Sourwood honey is Jillian and Kim’s forever favorite, partly due to the incredible taste, but also for its connection to the local Appalachian mountains.
A lot like the versatile locust honey, Jillian and Kim have adapted and thrived in their new environment. After five years in business at their first location, Jillian and Kim expanded and opened a second downtown storefront in September of 2019.
Sweet Community Collaborations
Jillian and Kim’s passion for bees and honey is visible in every facet of their business. The Bee Charmer has collaborated with several other businesses in Asheville to promote bee conservation and habitat enhancement for pollinators.
“The Bee Charmer is not just a shop that sells bee products, it is a business committed to bee conservation.” – Jillian
Who Will Speak for the Bees?
As bee and pollinator populations continue to decline, Jillian and Kim are steadfast in their commitment to education and honey bee habitat protection. They have been invited to join activities including the Black Jar Honey contest, of which Kim was recently a judge, as well as pollinator events for Bee City USA. Their work in the community has led to additional bee habitats, most recently on the rooftop of Highland Brewery.
At their private home Jillian and Kim keep bees as well. Even the landscaping and gardening around their home has bees and other pollinators in mind. Their hive started primarily with Italian bees, and has expanded to include Russian bees as well as Carniolan bees — Jillian describes her backyard bees as a ‘multi-cultural’ hive.
“You don’t have to be a beekeeper to help the bees.” – Jillian and Kim
Their work with pollinator conservation and their unique business model has not gone unnoticed. They have been featured on the National Geographic Channel and HGTV’s Creative Genius. Jillian and Kim continue to promote their passion for pollinators and the vital role bees play in pollinating our food. Stop by for a visit at The Bee Charmer in downtown Asheville on your next visit.