Made in Arkansas: Seven decades of sweet success

    7:18 AM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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    NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- What started as a hobby keeping bees, and a relief for arthritis soon became Arkansas' first honey plant. For seven decades now, Fischer's Honey has been leading the way in the industry's honey sales.

    For the Fischer's, dreams first started at the family home on Main Street in North Little Rock.

    Family member Joe Callaway explains, "He wasn't afraid to try anything. He was a real business man."

    It's that ambition that Callaway says launched a profitable honey business. Raymond Fischer was at the head of it all.

    It was the 1930's and Fischer was struggling with arthritis. The theory was that bee stings would be the cure. So, he started raising bees and then began extracting the honey in the family kitchen. 

    "From there he moved it out to his garage," says Callaway.

    It was during the sugar shortage of War World II that business started booming.

    "People couldn't get sugar so they would get honey and that is how he started in Krogers," says Callaway.

    Behind the family home is a 20,000 square foot facility. It's the largest and oldest honey processing and packing plant in Arkansas. Demand for processing increased so much that the family stop raising bees. Callaway says, "We do buy a lot of honey from local bee keepers."

    The rest of the honey comes from a handful of states across the country and then it's processed at the Arkansas plant. They can fill 48 bottles a minute. Callaway says, "They produce two million pounds of honey a year and distribute that to 14 states across the southeast. They're hoping in the future to expand that distribution even further. It is a lot easier to expand sometimes in the foreign countries than it is here in the United States."

    Fischer's Honey exports to South Korea and they're hoping to sign off on a project in Jordan very soon. It's good news but it hasn't come without struggle. 

    "Honey is not a necessity. It is a luxury item," says Callaway.

    There's been a 10 percent drop in business since 2011. Companies and restaurants have cut back on their orders and the bad economy forced layoffs. Still, they're optimistic and grateful for their family's roots. It's that history that Callaway believes keeps them in business. He says, "We have people come in here to buy honey and they will tell us about the days they bought honey from Mr. Fisher when he had bees in his backyard here on Main Street."

    Seven decades later, the family's success continues. Fischer's dreams live on. They're dreams, as sweet as honey made in Arkansas. 

    "We are very fortunate," says Callaway.

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