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Archive for Saturday, November 8, 2008

Longtime dream becomes thriving business

Tony Schwager, right, takes a closer look at a honey frame that is still swarming with bees. Tony's son, Anthony, 22, co-owns Anthony's Beehive in rural Douglas County. Anthony, who was born with a developmental disability, got the idea to raise bees when he was in third grade.

Tony Schwager, right, takes a closer look at a honey frame that is still swarming with bees. Tony's son, Anthony, 22, co-owns Anthony's Beehive in rural Douglas County. Anthony, who was born with a developmental disability, got the idea to raise bees when he was in third grade.

November 8, 2008

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A sweet devotion
Tony and Anthony Schwager work together in the family business, Anthony's Beehive. The two extract and harvest only from their multiple beehives.

Anthony Schwager came home during the third grade with the idea of raising bees. Little did his parents know that it would be the start of a successful business for their developmentally disabled son and the entire family. More

Terri Schwager lived with fears about her son's future.

Because of birth trauma, her boy, Anthony, was born with a developmental disability - he had global developmental delay with epilepsy.

"As a parent, I know that I worried a lot when he was younger," Terri Schwager said. "What is he going to do? What kind of job is he going to get, knowing the limitations that are facing him?"

Those fears later resolved themselves.

Anthony, now 22, is the co-owner of Anthony's Beehive, a thriving business based in rural Douglas County.

It all started with an idea from Anthony himself.

When he was in third grade, Anthony watched a video about bees in one of his classes. He came home that night begging his parents - Terri and Tony Schwager - to consider getting some bees and hives of their own.

"At first when I came home and told my parents about bees, they were just like - first off, they didn't know anything about bees," Anthony said. "They basically blew me off."

But Anthony persisted. A year later, the family discussed the matter again.

When their other children had requests - like for a llama or a horse - they had given in. That year, they decided, it was Anthony's turn.

"I still remember that conversation," Terri said. "It was like, 'If we're good parents, and we want to be good parents, even though I don't want to do it, we're going to have to do it.' "

At first, it was just a hobby. Anthony started with two beehives, and in the second year, those hives died.

Anthony and Tony started back up with four hives the next year and began selling honey at the Farmers' Market in Lawrence. Soon, he was making a profit and gaining the reputation around town as "The Bee Guy."

The Schwagers later expanded to 30 hives, and after receiving a grant from the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities, they increased to 100 hives. About that time, they also started selling other products such as honey straws, lip balm and lotion, which the entire family helped manufacture.

After starting in just a few stores, Anthony now places his items in more than 250 locations nationwide. For a while, Tony even quit his full-time job as a teacher to help grow the business.

"I just find it ironic, I'm pleased that (Anthony's) the one that came up with this idea, in terms of carrying bees," Terri said. " Did I even envision where we'd be and what we'd be doing? No way."

The plan is for Anthony's Beehive to keep expanding as well. "We think Anthony will be involved in it until he's an old man," Tony said.

The family is also considering constructing an office building that would include a beehive exhibit so that Anthony could share his passion and knowledge of bees with school children and visitors.

"Not a lot of people actually raise bees," Anthony said. "A lot of people are afraid of them or allergic to them. It's fascinating how cool they are, what they do."

Anthony has become a role model for people with disabilities, his father said.

Because of her family's bee business, Terri said her concerns about Anthony have disappeared.

The issue resolved itself. And Anthony ended up finding his calling in the process.

"I think, if there's such a thing as God's plan, I do believe that this is what he's supposed to be doing," Terri said. "I believe in my heart that this is what he's supposed to be doing."

Comments

geekin_topekan 6 years, 1 month ago

I would love to raise bees.My parents had acres of land and one dad pop brought home a bee hive and some starter bees.Looking back,I really doubt he had a clue either.It is amazing how much honey an single hive can produce.I was amazed anyway.One issue I have never taken up with dad is,why did he put the things right next to the house?The man owned acres and acres of land.he was far from lazy,hand turning planting and maintaining a two acre garden every year.Why?

Charles L Bloss Jr 6 years, 1 month ago

Most people have no idea how important bees are in pollinating all our crops. flowers, & vegetables. I read recently that the bees were in trouble, and had some strange disease that was killing them. Without the bees, we would be really screwed. Great job, Anthony. Thank you, Lynn

galfromku 6 years, 1 month ago

Anthony was one of my cub scouts when he was a young boy. I am so pleased that he is so successful at something that gives him so much joy. He is such a good person. I am happy to see him and his family blessed so much. Hugs to you all! ~Phyllis :)

formerksteacher 6 years, 1 month ago

Way to go, Anthony! (And Tony and Terri and the rest of the clan) I'm not only proud of you because I know what good people you are, but the products you make are also the best around. I've bought honey and lip balm as holiday gifts for my friends far away. It's a cool way to share Lawrence with my friends and support Anthony, too.

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