David Mullins and his father, Roger, started keeping bees as a hobby in 2015. Two years later, David set up a card table in a friend’s front yard and sold 80 pints of honey.

Bee Great – the business David and his wife, Tammy, started in 2018 – today has an online store and brick-and-mortar location in Churubusco. Tuesday, it will open its second retail spot at Electric Works’ Union Street Market – a facility featuring independent businesses selling fresh, specialty and prepared foods and beverages, with a focus on products grown and produced in northeast Indiana.

“When we created the concept – our strategies of what the market should be and how it would best serve the community – we wanted it to be a mix of things,” Ted Spitzer, Union Street Market’s director of planning and development, told The Journal Gazette. “And so part of that was a place to go eat and drink, but with businesses that utilized local foods whenever possible for their ingredients.

“But secondly, we wanted the market to be a place where consumers could directly access fresh and specialty products from the producers,” Spitzer said.

Access to locally grown food cropped up as a common desire of residents during development of the new comprehensive plan, All In Allen, Sherese Fortriede, senior planner with Fort Wayne’s Planning & Policy Department, told The Journal Gazette last month. That appetite for local food and products received little if any mention while the Plan-It Allen Comprehensive Plan was developed in 2007.

But a national study by the Food Marketing Institute in 2009 found consumers cited freshness (82%), support for the local economy (75%) and knowing the source of the product (58%) as reasons for buying local food. Several studies since have identified consumer perceptions of local food, including that local produce is fresher looking and tasting, of higher quality and a better value for the price.

Local foods also are synonymous with small farms and businesses that are committed to the local community, and Bee Great is just one example.

“During COVID, we thought we were going to have to shut down, and Fort Wayne and the surrounding area just saved us – that’s all there is to it,” David Mullins told The Journal Gazette. “It turned us around and allowed us to really expand and fulfill the passion that we had for working with honey- bees and bringing unique products to the community.”

At Bee Great, customers will find balms, lotions and soaps made of beeswax, as well as bourbon, rum, tequila and whiskey barrel-aged honey. But that’s not all.

The Mullins family joins 15 other small businesses at Union Street Market, including Grabill Amish Pastry & Deli. Owner Elmer Lengacher said it was exactly what he was looking for in a second storefront.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing for everyone. It’s cleaning up an old site. It has drawn new people. I don’t think you could do it any better,” he told The Journal Gazette. “We’ve always been looking for an opportunity like this, and when it came up, we were all on board.”

Lengacher sees his Union Street Market location as a way of winning attention while introducing Fort Wayne to his doughnuts and popular, homemade potato salad.

If you’re looking for locally produced food and beverages and want to support the local economy, visit Union Street Market at Electric Works. Besides Tuesday’s opening, after-Thanksgiving holiday events will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 26 to Dec. 18.

All merchants who can accept SNAP or food stamps at Union Street Market are required to do so, Spitzer said, and those systems will be up and running soon.

“It’s important that we want the market to be a place where people from lower-income families can shop,” he said.

Editorials are the opinion of The Journal Gazette Editorial Board: President Julie Inskeep, publisher Sherry Skufca, editorial page editor Fredrick McKissack and editorial writer Jeff Kovaleski.