Joe Heider wanted a new pet.
He knew it would be a tough sell to his wife, Bobbi, because they already owned a dog, cat, guinea pig, fish and any other animal their daughter had desired growing up.
But he brought it up as they were walking around their yard in Massillon and compiling their annual “honey-do” list.
Bobbi thought he was going to say chickens.
But Joe pointed to the corner of the garage and said, “What do you think about a beehive?”
“Bees? I’m allergic to bees,“ Bobbi remembers saying. ”… There was some discussion.“
Joe reasoned that raising honey bees would be an easy way to satiate his love of honey, and Bobbi could have the excess wax for her hobbies. He pledged to add only one hive a year.
The Heiders became devoted bee parents in the fall of 2008 when Joe bought a colony from Eli Troyer, who became Joe’s mentor.
Shortly after bringing home their first bees, Hurricane Ike swept through Stark County. Joe, who was working for Jackson Township’s parks department, received a call from a coworker about a downed tree with a hive that wasn’t going to survive.
The Heiders then had their second hive.
“The goal was to have 10 hives in 10 years,” Joe said. “I ended up having 10 hives the second year. It just kind of grew real fast.”
Bobbi started selling jellies at the local farmers’ market on Saturdays, while Joe took their daughter, Stephanie, to her sports practices. Joe eventually added bottles of honey to the table.
“We never really thought about selling it,” said Joe, who now works for the Jackson Township Highway Department. “But when you have buckets of honey laying around, you’ve got to do something with it.”
The Heiders have gone from one small table to three at the Massillon and Jackson Township farmers’ markets. They’ve added soaps, lip balms and salves, as well as comb honey, after receiving multiple requests.
They incorporated Heider’s Honey as a business in April 2016 and now sell their products online all year. Bobbi also is obtaining her certification to begin selling aromatherapy products.
The Heiders now manage up to 50 colonies, with between 20,000 to 80,000 bees per colony. The hives are positioned throughout their nearly 1-acre yard and on a second site where no neighbors are nearby.
Bobbi, who works as an office administrator at Stark Glass Enterprises, said she has adopted the bees as their pets and will sometimes sit and watch the bees as they move in and out of a hive.
“It’s better than TV,” she said.
Joe & Bobbi Heider’s local favorites:
Joe: Kozmo’s Grille in Massillon where he orders the cheesecake.
“I’ll order that before dinner to make sure I get it because they always sell out,” Joe said.
Bobbi: Sugar Bowl in Massillon is a new favorite.
“It’s like a chocolate shop and a restaurant all combined,” Bobbi said. “You go in and get your sandwich, and on your way out, you pass the chocolate and say, ’I need one of those!’”
Favorite indoor activity:
For Joe, it’s indoor soccer at The SportDome. Joe has been playing soccer since he was a grade-school student at a Fairborn Catholic school that didn’t have a football team.
“All we had was a soccer ball, and everybody played soccer,” he said. “Teams upon teams upon teams.”
Favorite date night:
“One of our favorite nights out involves a trip to Home Depot followed by dinner at Kozmo’s or Bison Street Burgers & Brews,” Bobbi said. “We also like to walk along one of the walking paths and go for a hike at The Wilderness Center.”
Favorite place to shop for gifts:
For the gifts they don’t make themselves, the Heiders shop at local museum shops, such as at The Wilderness Center and the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.
“Those are gifts that you don’t see as much,” Bobbi said.
Favorite local event:
The Community Celebration in Jackson Township (formerly the Star Spangled Celebration).
“We would make a whole day of the Star Spangled at Jackson Township,” Bobbi said. “Joe would be working and (daughter Stephanie) and I would go play all day.”
Favorite volunteer opportunity:
Outreach for the Stark County, Tri-County and Ohio State beekeeper associations. Joe often volunteers to take an observation bee hive to local county fairs to help educate the public on the difference between honey bees and other bees, such as yellow jackets.
“He gets to talk about bees, and that’s his favorite subject,” Bobbi said.