Former retail worker hits the streets with his sweet concoction

Former retail worker hits the streets with his sweet concoction

March 31
03:10 2016

Emily Miller | Staff Writer

@emily12miller

On the corner of a crowded intersection on North Carroll Boulevard and University Drive, many commuters may be familiar with the buzz around Schlotzsky’s parking lot.

Signs that read “LOCAL RAW HONEY” and “ALLERGIES?” work as guides to Robert “Rick” Newton’s raw honey establishment upon a rickety fold-out table within an empty car space, his white van a few feet away holds extra stock to replenish his stand.

Robert Newton harvests his own honey from more than thirty hives on his Denton farm. He sets up his Wildflower Honey table on the corner of University Dr. and Carroll Blvd. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Robert Newton harvests his own honey from more than thirty hives on his Denton farm. He sets up his Wildflower Honey table on the corner of University Dr. and Carroll Blvd. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Newton attends this spot of high traffic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., come rain or shine, to sell his unpasteurized honey. From simmering the common cold to stomping down on a cigarette craving, these sweet concoctions have a massive amount of uses coupled with a tedious method of collection.

“I lost count of the amount of times I’ve gotten stung,” Newton said. “I use protective gear every time, but they still weasel their way in through the rubber bands, get at your neck and so on.”

“People say ‘oh, you get used to it’ but that’s a lie, it hurts real bad every time,” Newton said with a chuckle.

Newton worked at Albertsons for 32 years before retiring. However, the buzz for business struck him hard. What started as a hobby with one or two hives became a business with 37 hives. Newton took to researching just how many beekeepers were around.

Only a couple other bee-enthusiasts like Newton lived in the area, so he got to work.

Getting started

With high goals and a beekeeping starter kit, Newton realized “it wouldn’t hurt” to have one more beekeeper in North Texas. Especially since the bee population could always use a kick-start.

“I did a lot of research,” Newton said, “about how to take care of them, how to get the honey out, how to monitor them.”

Robert Newton gets all kinds of customers, often honey bees visit his table to hunt for any spilled goods. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Robert Newton gets all kinds of customers, often honey bees visit his table to hunt for any spilled goods. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

After collecting all of his research by 2004, Newton took his starter-kit beekeeping to the next level. He began ordering hives and populating them with his growing colony.

“I’m working on getting into more grocery stores – at the moment I’m in the Natural Grocers and a few smaller stores,” Newton said. “If I’m going to expand, I’ve got to make those bees work.”

Newton’s 37 beehives have produced more than 200 pounds of unpasteurized honey per year, with plenty more on the way as he works on getting a larger bee population to produce more honey.

Collecting the good stuff

To extract the honey, Newton pulls out screens holding hive sections from their shelf-like set-up and sets three or four screens at a time within a large cylinder.

The cylinder spins, forcing the honey to the edges, which then allows it to drip down to the bottom and seep through a filter to extract any pieces of honeycomb that may have broken apart during the spinning.

“Once that’s over with, I start filling up jars and head out here,” Newton said.

There are plenty of risks in the beekeeping business and getting stung by an angry worker bee is the least of a beekeeper’s worries. Colony Collapse Disorder, drastic temperature changes (especially in Texas) and mites could strike at any time.

New pesticides have been proven toxic to the honeybee, and according to Earthjustice.org “nearly a third of all the honeybees in the country have perished in just a few years.”

Newton, however, stands undeterred.

“I monitor my bees every week, if you don’t do that then anything could happen to them,” Newton said. “I’ve been very fortunate that nothing’s gone wrong.”

A bright future

Jars of honey are lined up daily next to the Carroll Blvd. and University Dr. intersection, where Robert Newton sets up his table. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Jars of honey are lined up daily next to the Carroll Blvd. and University Dr. intersection, where Robert Newton sets up his table. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Newton’s bee colony has the capabilities to produce more than 200 pounds of honey, which gives him plenty of stock to sell in multiple stores.

In the next few years, Newton plans on expanding to grocery stores in Oklahoma, Arkansas and other nearby states, but claims local businesses are already selling out of his product.

“It’ll take a lot of work and time,” he said.

Newton expects it to take two to three years to buff up his bees and get a growing market. And ideally, he hopes to have bigger places to be in the near future than in a Schlotzsky’s parking lot.

“If it all goes well you’ll see me out here a lot less,” Newton said. “That’s for sure.”

Featured Image: Robert Newton shows his bee charmer touch as a honey bee lands on his finger in front of his jars. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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