The little Buzzstop honey sign sits on Queenstown’s busy state highway. The traffic streams past unaware that just over the paddock lies a sweet, rural delight. Recently, I went to visit Nick Cameron of Buzzstop Honey Centre to get the buzz on his latest venture.
A Tale Of One Woolshed
The old girl was sagging at the seams. 70-years worth of bird droppings encrusted every beam. An ancient smell of sheep wafted up through the open floor grating. Even in the thin winter light, Nick could see the thick piles of dung below. He kicked at the thin, slippery boards which covered the floor.
“Whose crazy idea was this, anyway?” he grumbled.
“Yours, mate” the others chorused, hoisting the wheeled scaffold through the gaping doorway.
Nick clambered up the ladder, heaved the first bucket of hot soapy water and disinfectant up behind him and took out his scrubbing brush. It was time to start work.
Buzzstop’s Restoration Begins
Not everyone can take a derelict building and realize its possibilities. But Nick Cameron had a bee business idea buzzing in his brain. In fact, he’d been looking for the right place for months.
When he spotted the old woolshed Nick knew his search was over. Covered in grime, sure, but the rural location was perfect. And it was only 2 minutes drive from Queenstown’ s international airport. Now he just had to muster up the courage to approach its owners.
Perhaps the Grant family were surprised to find a complete stranger knocking on their door asking for their woolshed. But Nick’s enthusiasm is contagious so they came on board.
Looking at Buzzstop’s gorgeous wood and concrete floor you’d have no idea of the work that went into it.
In winter, it was horrible. To clean this I was in here with no power, in the middle of winter, with the wind just charging through. On my hands and knees with a hammer and chisel.
But cleaning was only the first part of the job. The whole expanse then had to be lined underneath with plywood.
“Looking at it now,” says Nick, “you’ve got no idea of the hard work that went into it. It was epic.”
Returning To His Beekeeping Roots
Nick grew up with beekeeping in his blood. Over 100 years ago his mother’s family began tending hives in Otago’s Ida Valley. And the family’s passion has continued through the generations.
“My grandfather’s 93 and still kicking. He was a beekeeper as a lad and his father was a beekeeper before him. My brother is a beekeeper as well.” But Nick had no ambition to join the “family firm.”
Aged 17 he got his first job as a guide and loved it. That combination of interacting with people and being outdoors was Nick’s dream lifestyle. So he began to travel the world as an adventure guide.
Eventually, Nick landed in Sydney. He set up business offering Whale watching and rigid inflatable tours. Guiding on the sea sounds perfect, so what brought him home to Queenstown?
A lady, of course.
“I met my wife, Trace, on Manly wharf. She was from Stewart Island. One of us had to give, so I sold up my business and moved back to New Zealand.”
And that was when Nick’s beekeeping roots kicked in, and the Buzzstop story began.
Building The Buzzstop Concept
Nick’s vision was clear. He could see there was a tailor-made niche for him, combining beekeeping with guiding.
I could see so many shops selling honey, but we wanted to add in experiences … to give people the back story of how the honey got into the jar.
People are beginning to care about where their food comes from. At the same time, as more and more of us cram into cities, we actually know less and less about it.
But there’s even more to it than that. These tiny heroes have a critical role to play as pollinators. Without them many of our current food plants are unlikely to survive. So Buzzstop’s mission is very much about encouraging knowledge and respect for bees.
Being a parent of young children himself, Nick also wanted a place where everyone could feel at home. So he created a garden for adults and children to enjoy.
What’s In The Buzzstop Experience?
Nick and his team have such a variety of bee experiences at Buzzstop. Surely there’s something for everyone here.
- Eat And Enjoy
Buzzstop is not exactly a cafe: they don’t have a kitchen and bring in most of their food from local eateries. But they do have a few specialities which the staff make onsite. Light and tasty Belgian waffles are one, and delicious homegrown salads are another.
- Drink ROAR Coffee
“We’ve got good baristas and people will go the extra distance to get good coffee,” says Nick. “We wanted something that wasn’t here already so we were ROAR’s first outlet in Queenstown.”
Thanks To The Grant Family
Nick is beyond grateful to the Grant family who have allowed him to run with his Buzzstop vision.
“They’ve been very supportive… they’re happy and I’m stoked. They’ve been great.”
Buzzstop works beautifully with its next door neighbour, The Barn.
This charming little shop has been on Hansen Road for nine years. Inside there’s an eclectic mix of vintage and new furnishings. Wander in a little further too. You’ll find rooms of clothes, gorgeous knickknacks and more. It reminded me of Aladdin’s cave, alas without the gold.
Just Getting Started
2018-19 is just Season One for Buzzstop. They’re still growing and getting their name out there. But Nick has big plans.
“So far, we’ve only had bee tours onsite. That’s all I’ve had time for. But over winter we’ll try to get ourselves some wheels. I’ve got some really nice apiaries set up in beautiful scenic spots and that’s where we’d like to take people next.”
Driving out to see the apiaries around rural Queenstown would be awesome, but Nick’s also got some high-end plans.
“We’re also hoping to partner with local helicopter companies,” he says, “to fly people to our hives in more remote locations such as Mt Nicholas Station, or Halfway Bay.”
Buzzstop Is Keeping It Local And Real
Nick may have big plans for visitors but he’s focused on serving local tastes too.
“For a long time Queenstowners had no way to access local honey but now they can find it here,” he says. You can too — the shelves are full of honey jars from small, family-run honey businesses all over Otago.
He has other local initiatives too.
There are plans afoot to open a Community Apiary in Spring, 2019. How good would that be? You could keep your hive there and get help whenever you need it.
Nick and his team are doing a great job of bringing bees with a difference to Queenstown.
Next time you’re there, buzz in and check them out.
Address and Contact details
Address: Hansen Road, Queenstown, New Zealand
Phone: 021 942 808