Auto shop

Torrington Mechanic Turns Auto Shop Into A Beekeepers’ Haven

TORRINGTON — For Ed Bahr, beekeeping started as a hobby. Today his former auto repair shop on South Main Street has been converted into a beekeeping shop and workshop.

Healthy hives and proper bee care are important to Bahr – and should matter to all of us.

“Everything else on your plate is due to the bee,” he said.

When a friend fell ill, Ed and Kim Bahr took over Mike’s Hives. During the pandemic, they made the decision to close Bahr Auto Repair at 1065 South Main St., which the couple ran together for decades, and focus on the hive business full-time.

“When the pandemic hit, my employees wanted to stay home and collect unemployment, and that’s when I decided to really do it,” Ed Bahr said. “I’ve been in auto repair for probably 42 years and been in the Torrington area a long time.”

The couple have now created a one-stop-shop for beekeeping supplies and custom hives.

Bahr, who lives in Goshen, is also following in his father’s footsteps. Francis Bahr was an avid beekeeper when he lived in Danbury, he said.

“He now lives in New Mexico, he’s 86 and still healthy,” Ed Bahr said. “He attributes this to being stung by bees; the venom actually helps him stay healthy.

Bahr often helped his father with his hives when he was younger. Then, 12 years ago, while attending the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, he met Mike Rice, owner of Mike’s Beehives.

“We became friends,” Ed Bahr said. “Mike ran his business from home. For a few years I helped with his bees… I built hives and bee boxes.

When Rice had cancer, he asked Bahr to take over the business, Bahr said.

“And because of COVID-19 and the loss of employees, I decided to open it here,” he said.

Bahr said he had a lot of help from friends and family, as well as Torrington veteran Edward Sutton.

Inside the workshop

In reception, models of Bahr’s custom wooden beehives are on display, along with his father’s original “Bahr’s Honey Farm” sign. Pieces of wax from beehives and mannequins modeling protective beekeeping suits and headwear can be found throughout the store.

Inside the garage is a tidy space with more displays and supplies: costumes and headgear, glass honey jars, and Bahr’s craft beehives. A classroom is set up in the furthest corner, where bee workshops are held. They are often well attended, said Kim Bahr.

“There are people who are just starting out and people who have been doing this for a while,” she said. “To start, you get two hives and build from there.”

Behind the supply area and classroom, her husband mills the wood for each beehive from a large pile of logs stacked outside the garage in the back, cutting pieces of wood with joints in dovetail of its own design for the boxes. Dovetail joints can help prevent hives from being destroyed by their number one predator – bears, Ed Bahr said.

“Wood sticks together so when you pull on it, it doesn’t come apart. Usually a bear can rip a beehive pretty easily, but not as easily with these,” he said. “It’s the strongest hive you can get.”

In the garage, a combination chicken coop and two beehives are built as one unit, for someone just starting out and wanting both.

“Since COVID-19 people have gone back to old fashioned things and are interested in bees, chickens, canning and gardening,” Bahr said.

Develop the business

The couple plans to build an apiary on the property with more hives, and they hope to hire more employees as the business continues to grow.

In fact, the business is incredibly busy, and Bahr said he’s been working hard to keep up with demand. This week, he was traveling to Georgia to collect a supply of “bee packages”, each containing between 10,000 and 11,000 bees with a queen, which will be collected by his customers this weekend.

“I’m going to drive over there, pick them up, turn around and go home,” he said. “People will be lining up to pick them up on Saturday.”

The Bahrs are the region’s largest distributors of beekeeping supplies and said they like the idea of ​​offering a “real” store to customers, instead of requiring them to order supplies online. Customers come from Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts to shop.

“It’s good for them to have a physical store to buy from,” Ed Bahr said.

Keeping everything local is also important to the Bahr.

“Everything here is American-made, with American wood and materials,” he said.

Protect the bees

Many people join the beekeeping movement because they are concerned about declining bee populations around the world.

Bahr said it was important to keep the bees healthy. He also admires the whole process of bees and the work they do.

“Everything done in the hive is in the dark,” he said. “The workers all have jobs; there are sentries, drones, and bees that act as janitors to keep things clean. If people were as organized as bees, we wouldn’t have any problems in the world.

Friend and documentary filmmaker Harvey Hubbell from Litchfield has bees and plans to film the beekeeping process, Ed Bahr said.

He also helps his friend Mike Rice, who interested him in the first place.

“When I called him and told him I wanted to do this, he said I had made his dream come true,” he said. “He’s the reason it all started.”

Kim Bahr said Mike’s Beehives changed her husband’s outlook for the better.

“When he ran auto repair, it was stressful – he’s happy now,” she said. “And he’s very passionate about it.”

Mike’s Beehives can be reached by calling 860-605-0023 or emailing [email protected]; or go to