In our home town of Hudsonville, MI there is a wonderful family owned local hardware store. While the nearby Lowes or Home Depot hardware store monstrosities likely offer better prices on the parts we need to fix our leaky toilet, or damaged window screen, we wouldn’t think of going to one of these large chain hardware stores. The family owned hardware store not only sells us what we need for our repair, but the guys working there actually know almost everything about every home repair situation we’ve ever encountered. They take the time to discuss the options we have for our particular project and then suggest what they think is best. The people working there are friendly, polite and go out of their way to make sure we’re happy campers before we leave the store. From our perspective, when you are trying to accomplish something non-trivial, service trumps all the other variables in the buying equation.

With regard to beekeeping, over the years we’ve tried most of the suppliers when it comes to purchasing the equipment that we need to operate our apiary. While we’ve never had a particularly bad experience with any of the beekeeping suppliers we’ve done business with, it’s the consistently way better than average service we get every time that keeps us going back to the Walter T. Kelley Company for most of our beekeeping supplies. Not only are most of the people we’ve interacted with there reasonably beekeeping savvy, they always go out of their way to make sure we’re 100% satisfied with our orders. Whether its replacing something that inadvertently got damaged during shipping, or promptly sending a replacement queen in that package we bought that just isn’t laying good – they always come through. The Walter T. Kelley Company is not exactly a small business, but they certainly project a very helpful customer-centered mentality that these days is pretty hard to find – unless you happen to live in a small town with a family-owned hardware store!

Last year (2010) when talking to one of their people on the phone, I was told to be sure to stop by if I was ever in the area. Seeing that we were taking the kids down south during their Spring Break we decided we’d save some money on shipping and roll a Walter T. Kelley factory tour into our Spring Break vacation plans. We pulled into their facility with our 7 energetic kids in tow and were welcomed with genuine open arms. The woman who greeted us when we entered their main office area (I believe her name was Mary?) asked her coworkers to cover for her and then proceeded to spend the better part of an hour taking us through the plant and explaining the various manufacturing processes. All of the people we met and interacted with that day were exceptionally polite and welcoming, from our friendly tour guide to the young man in the shipping department who helped me load our order in the truck.

We’ve included a number of pictures we took on our tour below. Whether you are new to beekeeping or are an “old timer”, we highly recommend the Walter T. Kelley Company as a supplier. If you ever find yourself in their neck of the woods (Clarkson, Kentucky) we’d also encourage you to pay these fine folks a visit if you haven’t already.


The Engelsma's descend upon the Walter T. Kelley plant during their Spring Break 2010 trip.

Rendered beeswax being spooled up into rolls.

Quite an interesting assortment of machinery in the foundation plant.

Don't they look excited? How many kids do you know who are lucky enough to visit a bee equipment manufacturer on their Spring Break?

Here wire is being embedded into sheets of wax foundation. The wire strengthens the combs the bees build on the foundation to they don't spin out of the frames during the honey extraction process.

Here the spools of wax are fed into the machine that actually imprints the hexagonal pattern into the foundation.

Bottom boards being groved in the woodshop.

Walter T. Kelley's frame making machines spits out frame parts faster than all the beekeepers in the USA combined can nail them together!

Luke gets into bees and beekeeping factories!

The neat and tidy grounds of the Walter T. Kelley Company.

Disclaimer: We have no connection to the Walter T. Kelley Company other than the fact that we’re just another one of their very satisfied customers.