Sproutcraft Creamery cheeses. | Credit: Courtesy Sproutcraft Creamery

“It was an amazingly intense connection,” explains Barnaby Draper of his first time watching bees zoom in and out of his Flow Hive, a type of beehive that allows you to harvest honey with minimal disturbance to the bees.

Credit: Courtesy Sproutcraft Creamery

Draper and his partner, Ashley Farrell, quickly fell in love with beekeeping —  the process, the mission, the honey. So they decided to open Santa Barbara Hives in Carpinteria to share this passion with the community, sourcing honey and beeswax from nearly 700 hives across Santa Barbara County. The retail shop sells all things bee, from wax, candles, soap, and jun (which is a type of kombucha with honey) to Flow Hives, “nucs” of bees, and hive maintenance tools, which could help you yield 48 to 54 pounds of honey per year. 

“It’s part of the solution,” said Draper about the positive environmental impact of keeping bees while acknowledging the simple beauty of keeping your own hive. “The process of owning bees and watching them come and go is so soothing for the soul.”

In addition to their beekeeping, Draper is a photographer for American Express, working with top artists and chefs in the world, while Farrell owns her own landscape design company. The couple’s shared creative inspiration is evident in the store’s thoughtfully curated collection of goods, mostly by hometown artisans. While I was there, an excited energy buzzed about the store as customers came in looking for a fresh loaf of Riviera Bread, inquiring about keeping bees of their own, and picking out thoughtful gifts for loved ones. 

“Honey is fantastic on a cheeseboard,” Draper said. “I wanted to have a fun pantry with the cheeseboard as the core.”

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That pantry is stocked with goodies from such familiar purveyors as S.B. Pickle Works, Ojai Jelly, and Chocolats du Calibressan, which produces honey-infused chocolates for the store. Cutting boards, kitchen accessories, birdhouses, and beautiful tinware from Lacalle Studio are just a few of the unique items they sell, perfect for gift-giving.

The shopping experience gets sweeter once you try their vegan menu items. Chef Chris Rayman, the vegan cheese master who owns Sproutcraft Creamery, is the genius behind their menu. Try their incredible Cashew Jalapeño Cream Cheese sandwich with pickled mustard seeds, red onions, cucumbers, glazed crimini mushrooms, and baby arugula layered between a fresh baguette from either Riviera or Oat Bakery. Other offerings include an almond butter and S.B. Hives honey sandwich, salads, coconut yogurt parfait, and an incredible mushroom pâté. The jun — tangy, sweet, and bubbly — is the best I’ve had, and every item on their menu hums with attention to detail. 

“He’s the real deal,” Draper said of Rayman’s talents. “For the vegan or non-vegan, you wouldn’t miss the meat.”

Credit: Courtesy Sproutcraft Creamery

I couldn’t agree more, as I sample another bite of an impossibly creamy cashew cheese. The shop will be hosting their second pop-up dinner on August 20, featuring Rayman and Napa-based Chef Akiko Sunazawa, who’ll be cooking with chaga mushrooms. 

Every purchase from Santa Barbara Hives helps keep their hives running across the county, and for every item sold, a tree is planted as well. From gifts and honey to beekeeping supplies and nourishing bites, there’s certainly no sting to shopping at S.B. Hives.  

516 Palm Ave., Carpinteria; (805) 380-3605; santabarbarahives.com

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