West Point business keeps old family recipes alive offering up homegrown, homemade products

These days, West Point mother-daughter duo Connie Perry and Christi Harris are managing to stay busy. Between spending early mornings in the garden, meticulously pruning and weeding in the summer heat, canning their harvests and baking up homemade cakes and pies in the evenings, there is little time to spare.

But, they’ve managed to make to work. Armed with hundreds of family recipes spanning across generations and a passion for good, homegrown products, the pair are bringing them to life and offering them to the public.

“Nothing we make is fancy; we didn’t want that. We wanted to bring just some good home cooking that people can’t really get anymore,” Harris said.

Kickstarting their at-home cottage business, Riverbee’s Hive and Honey, in March, the pair offers up an extensive, rotating menu boasting everything from local honey, canned pickles, relish and baked goods. While they plan to expand their efforts into beauty products made with wax from their hives, the pair promises fresh homemade, homegrown products straight from their backyard.

Harris said it was her interest in beekeeping that sparked her interest in the cottage industry. Looking to fill a demand not known anywhere else in town, Harris said raising bees offers numerous benefits to the community.

“Bees are one of the smartest animals, the way they communicate and work within their hive,” Harris added. “On top of that, they are great pollinators and can they can travel miles so, my bees have probably pollinated all across town.”

Additionally, Harris said bees offer up a plethora of medicinal properties. From helping alleviate allergies to arthritis relief to digestive relief, Harris said she plans to sell her honey and create lotions and balms from the wax she collects.

Maintaining their own hive, the pair work side-by-side in their designated roles. Managing the retail side and the taking care of the bees, Harris advertises and continues to make sales amid a pandemic. Meanwhile, Perry buzzes around the kitchen keeping family traditions alive with her family recipes.

“Most of the recipes I use are from my mother and some go back generations. I tweak some of them a bit, but for the most part, they’re what I grew up on,” Perry said. “I’ve been baking since I was little; I learned from my mom and she learned from hers. That’s how things were back then.”

Carrying her family’s recipes from the coalfields of Virginia to the Eastern Shore, Perry does not hold back when it comes to her unique creations.

With one of the business’ many bestsellers, their sweet pickle relish, Harris said it’s the fresh, garden-grown ingredients and the way it’s made that’s made it a favorite at every cookout, family reunion and community function for years.

Perry spends hours cranking the handle on an old antique grinder filling it full with zucchini, onions and peppers. It’s the process that keeps people coming back for more. In the few months since the business’ beginning, Perry said she’s made more than 20 batches, each batch making nearly eight pints of relish.

The sweet relish is just one among many creations the pair offer. Spending most days in the kitchen, they whip up all of the classics including chocolate pies, coconut cream cakes and pound cake. They also offer more unique, often forgotten in time, recipes like their zucchini bread.

Despite opening up a business in the midst of a global pandemic, mother and daughter said it has not slowed their momentum.

“We have some weeks that are slow but orders are still coming in. We have regulars that come by every week and we have some that are coming from Richmond,” Harris said. “We did learn after the Fourth of July that holidays are going to be our busiest times.”

Reading their hive for the fall and winter months, they are already planning ahead for the holiday seasons. In the fall, they plan to offer pumpkin rolls, pumpkin and apple pies. For the holiday season, the pair said they’re looking forward to showcasing their famous Christmas cookies.

While the pandemic has brought on uncertainty for many folks, they said they aren’t worried about their business. Instead, they are looking onward to the future. Whether it is a fixture on their property to sell their goods from or a food truck, the pair are working through their options.

Regardless of how it pans out, they said they are excited to continue bringing their family’s beloved recipes to other people’s homes.

“People seem to be as excited as we are and we’re happy to share,” Perry said.

For more information about Riverbee’s Hive and Honey, visit bit.ly/2OLyqGx.

Emily Holter, [email protected], 757-256-6657, @EmilyHolterNews.


©2020 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

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