A beekeeping couple from Colonial Heights are planning to bring the ancient craft of making honey mead to downtown Hopewell.
Mike and Tonya Haley plan to open Haley’s Honey Meadery LLC this fall in a renovated commercial building at 235 E. Broadway Ave. in Hopewell.
The Haleys have leased 1,200 square feet in the building, which is being renovated for a public tasting room. The tasting room, near the Beacon Theatre, will also have an outdoor patio. An adjacent space about the same size will house a production area for making mead.
Mead — believed to be the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage — is fermented honey and water, sometimes blended with other flavorings or ingredients such as fruits, spices or hops.
“There is an explosion of urban wineries and breweries, and we are finally getting on the bandwagon,” Tonya Haley said during an event at Guncotton Coffee and Gallery in Hopewell on Friday to announce plans for the meadery.
Tonya Haley, 44, is a special education teacher who grew up in a beekeeping family. Her father, James Setzer, was an apiarist in Chesterfield County.
In 2000, she and her husband, Mike, an X-ray technician, got back into the beekeeping business. They have 30 bee colonies, which they provide to farmers for crop pollination. They also sell honey.
“People were buying my honey to make mead,” Tonya Haley said. “They were coming to buy honey in bulk. So I said, ‘It’s my turn now. If they can make it, I can.’”
The Haleys are investing about $85,000 to open the meadery and plan to purchase about $120,000 in Virginia honey over three years. The meadery will buy fruits from Virginia farmers, including strawberries, peaches and blueberries, as ingredients for their mead, Tonya Haley said.
Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $12,000 grant for the project from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which is used to support businesses that buy Virginia farm products. Hopewell is matching the grant with local funds.
“It’s an investment that will make a difference for our farmers,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring at Friday’s event.
In Virginia, meaderies are regulated as farm wineries. Virginia has at least seven other meaderies, including Black Heath Meadery, which has been operating on Altamont Avenue in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition area since 2015.