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Washington Sporting Goods Store Turns To Beekeeping

A family-owned sporting goods store on the square in Washington is generating some buzz by changing its primary focus.

The switch to beekeeping at Brunks Sports Center comes after the COVID-19 pandemic delivered quite a sting to the existing screen printing and sports equipment business.

Credit Brunks / Facebook

“With no school sports and restaurants being shut down, 95% of my business was screen printing and there were absolutely no jobs there, not enough to keep things going,” said owner Curt Reynolds.

“Anybody can go on Amazon, order a baseball helmet today, get it tomorrow, and buy it cheaper than what I can actually buy it for, pay shipping, and get it,” he added. “People were coming in the store, trying stuff on, then going home and ordering it online and not buying it here.”

Reynolds said the pivot to beekeeping comes from a passion he developed by raising honeybees for the past eight years. He hopes the switch turns into a sweet solution.

“This is really neat. We've always sold our honey, and it's local,” he said. “We make our own candles out of our own wax. We just thought, let's just open a store and introduce the public to it and provide a service.”

Along with the transformation, the Brunks storefront is undergoing a complete renovation.

“The front of the store has been restored to a historic level. I'm back to the floor that was laid in the 1800s,” said Reynolds. “I'm bringing something back to the city. The historical society is going to put prints up in my store, and we're going to have a TV that's going to show more prints.”

Credit Brunks / Facebook

In addition to selling honey and other related products, Reynolds said the operation will be a hands-on, family-friendly attraction.

“People will be able to watch us make it, and it'll be a ‘pour our own candles.’ Kids will be able to come in, like for Mother's Day and pour mom a candle, take it home to her. We’ll just get more interactive with the public,” he said.

While the front of the store will be dedicated to beekeeping, Reynolds said he will still do some screen printing. But the sporting goods are all gone, after he donated two van-loads of equipment to Special Olympics.

Although the city of Washington has an ordinance against owners allowing bees to “fly at large within the city limits,” Reynolds said he’s hoping to have that changed so he can encourage others to pick up the beekeeping hobby.

“Say a family wants one beehive, we can sell them a hive. We can get them the bees,” he said. “They don't have to borrow the equipment; I'll have the equipment, like for when they want to spin out their honey. If they have extra honey, they're welcome to sell it at full retail price in my store. It's hard to have enough honey, local.”


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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.