Little did Andy Lorhman and wife, Jodi, know that when Andy started working on his long-awaited tool building and bee supply store that before it was finished it would, instead, become a new and unique eatery for the Wabash Valley and one that would involve all sorts of family and community members.
Once the couple made the decision, the planning began first for a sandwich shop and bee supply store in the new building next to their rural Brazil home. The plan then morphed into a full-fledged restaurant and bee supply store.
Jodi said since high school she has wanted to run a restaurant. She loves cooking and finds it is her creative outlet. Andy has been with the Indiana State Police for 26 years and is lieutenant and commander of the Crime Scene Unit for the Indiana State Police Forensic Lab. For the past seven years, he has found his creative outlet in bee keeping and teaching others the benefits and enjoyment of keeping bees.
“I really haven’t been with him on this [bee] endeavor, but I’ve always loved cooking,” Jodi said. A career change for her in the past year made the timing seem right to think about offering up a place for people to meet and eat. Although Jodi said she had always dreamed of having a restaurant in her house with its beautiful lakeside view, health department restrictions made that impossible. Andy had already started his “workshop” building just a few feet from their house – “So, I kind of took over,” Jodi said and laughed.
Andy appears as excited and as happy as Jodi over this new venture. Their two hobbies are merging into a unique product that will benefit the community. Andy’s handiwork can be seen all over their Bee-stro — from the unique fruit jar lighting fixtures to some of the decorative wood art to the “honey bee” hand pulls added to cabinets and cupboards. One can tell he really didn’t mind giving up his space for this family undertaking.
This Bee-stro is different from other restaurants and the name signifies that.
“We wanted it to be different. We wanted it to be comfortable. We wanted it be a place for hospitality and offer food like Grandma used to,” Jodi said. But what to call it had them stumped.
“We weren’t a diner, and we’re not a cafe and we were like, “What are we?” Jodi said. It certainly wasn’t going to be a ladies’ tea room, Andy added. It will be a place that hefty men like him would want to go, he said. It wasn’t a fast food place and they weren’t offering french fries and hamburgers and calling it a ‘restaurant’ was just too ‘blah’ and non-descriptive,” Jodi said.
While the couple were perusing synonyms for “restaurant,” Jodi came across the word “bistro” and looked up the word.
“The definition was ‘a small, unpretentious restaurant,’” she said.
Bingo. She said they knew then what they were going to call it. With excitement they were telling friends that they had come up with bistro name and the friends asked — “So are you spelling it ‘Bee-stro’?”
The Lorhman’s said they looked at each other and said, “YESSSS!” At that moment the Bee-stro on Honeysuckle Hill Farm was named. The tag name came easily, The Honeysuckle Hill Bee-stro — Hospitality flavored with honey. It was the perfect blending of creative outlets for the Lorhman’s. Sweet.
The walls inside the Honeysuckle Hill Bee-stro are honey colored, the valances are made of special material with embroidered honey bees, the bathroom lavatory even sits on top of a bee hive frame, the water and tea carafes have honey comb and a honey bee design on each, there are honey bee cabinet pulls and honey bee napkins rings — and at the end of April Andy will be installing an observatory window so visitors can actually watch bees at work in a 10-frame hive.
This “sweet” project has involved their family, friends and community members. The building, with the occasional help from friends, was basically completed by Andy. Daughters Judah and Sophie will be major contributors to the Bee-Stro’s operations as will Jodi. Andy’s niece, Maria Schopmeyer, who owns The Farm and Company, south of Poland, painted the Bee-stro’s signs. Jodi’s sister, Jami Jenkins from Ohio, designed the logo for website use, business cards and menus and she will also supply many of the gift selections in the “gift shop” area, such as handcrafted soaps, bath fizz muffins, and more — many items are tied to honey and Indiana. The Bee-stro will use local produce and foods as much as possible, too, the Lorhmans said.
“It is just amazing at how everything came together, Jodi said. “I just have to give God credit for it ... That’s the amazing thing on this journey — I come from a long line of ‘fraidy-cat’s,’ but Andy has always been much more bold and more of a risk taker really, but it has been like each step of way, God has just touched and blessed us with having peace — or the right thing will come along at the right time — even down to silly things like the bee napkin rings, bee door pulls and finding bee material for valances.” Friends and family have been on the “look-out” for bee-themed items for the new Bee-stro as evidenced from the Bee-stro’s website.
As for community input, there will be recipes used from friends and family like “Furnace Man’s Marinated Turkey Breast” (a recipe garnered from their furnace man, John Stevenson), or “Ann Atkinson’s (a friend to many in Clay County) Blueberry Cheesecake,” for example.
Clay City Pottery mugs have been specially made for the Bee-stro and will be used along with the local Pottery’s signature blue soup and salad bowls, and many will remember the delicious and scrumptious broccoli cheese soup from the one-time Mee and Ewe tea room and the luscious honey oat bread and savory grape tea from Brazil’s Company’s Coming of years past. Those will be staples at The Honeysuckle Hill Bee-stro.
“I was so honored that Annette Royer (former owner of Mee and Ewe) and Jan Stapp (former owner of Company’s Coming) would share these recipes with me,” Jodi said. But even though these three recipes came from former Tea Rooms, the Bee-stro is far from a ladies dainty meeting and eating place.
“We want it to be like Sunday dinner at Grandma’s,” Jodi said. And that means large portions and everything made from scratch — “Hoosier grub food,” the Lorhmans call it.
On the menu, which will change from week to week, customers will find such items — many laced with honey — like: ham loaf with honey glaze, fried chicken (the best this writer has ever tasted!), pork tenderloin, honey glazed potatoes, chicken and noodles and deserts unequaled. Actually about one-third of the recipes use honey in some way, according to Jodi. There are plenty of items for non-honey fanciers. “There are things that you eat that you say, ‘It’s OK’ and there are things that you eat and think ‘Oh, that’s really good’ and then there are things that you think ‘Oh WOW! That’s REALLY good.’” Those are the types of items the Lohrmans said they plan to serve.
There will always be four main entree items on the menu, one beef, one pork, one chicken and either a fish or pasta dish. Soups and salads will vary with a few favorites always available. Besides the grape tea, lemonade, bottled coke products, regular iced tea, coffee and water will be available.
The menu items have been taste-tested by community members who signed up for the free samplings. The Lohrmans offered main entree items at one taste test, salads and soups at another and deserts at another. Selections that secured the most positive comments and ratings from the 63 guests became staple menu items.
Leesa Nesty of Brazil, who attended all three of the Honeysuckle Bee-stro’s taste testing events, said of the Bee-stro, “It will be wonderful! It will be a place to go and feel right at home and to connect and yet be pampered at the same time. Everything is delicious!”
Patty Fox, another who attended all three taste tests at the Bee-stro said, “It’s just going to be awesome. The food is fantastic. [Jodi] is a really good cook and has great recipes. ... The appearance and the aroma made your mouth water waiting to be delivered the sample.”
“Loved the beehive honey cake and the apple pie,” another attendee to the desert sampling night said. The beehive honey cake is a rich cake shaped in the form of a small beehive and soaked in sweet honey and the apple pie is just like Grandma used to make, made from scratch pie crust and freshly peeled apples, Jodi said, redolent with the aroma of cinnamon.
And you never left Grandma’s house without some food, she added. Guests can probably expect to take some leftovers home with them. The portions will be hearty, Andy assured.
“Men will not go away dissatisfied,” he said. “They will love this place.”
If you are in a hurry and want a cooked meal to take home to the family, you can call ahead and order take out.
To continue the “Grandma’s house” ambiance, the Bee-stro’s serving dishes are Currier and Ives and seating is a collection of eclectic chairs.
“Grandma Pell had 60 family members she fed,” Jodi said, and thus the dining table chairs were all different to have enough seats. Until her grandmother’s death when Jodi was 12, Jodi said she and cousin Pam shared the top of a clothes hamper for a seat at the table. (And you will even see a duplicate of the hamper from long ago in the corner at the Bee-stro.)
“We’re not quite that eclectic,” Jodi said. You won’t have to sit on a hamper, but you will notice the mismatched seats. There will be enough of those dissimilar chairs to seat 32 downstairs in the Bee-stro and up to 14 upstairs. However, the upstairs will mainly be used for overflow and special events. Andy will also have bee supply equipment — everything you need to keep bees — on display for sale there and he and his bee specialist, daughter Sophie, will also use the upstairs room for bee keeping classes. His workshop in the basement will continue to be used by him to make certain bee keeping materials as well as other projects.
“It’s going to be really unique,” Jodi said of their own little beehive “bee-stro.” “I think people will like it. ... My goal is — and it has been this way from the beginning — I really want people to leave more at peace than when they came because there is so much chaos in the world today and that’s part of the whole ‘Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house’ idea. ... There is just something about that — getting together — you know — as a family — a family dinner, and we don’t do that anymore. I”m really hoping it will be a place where people can bring their kids, you know, and everybody can just connect with one another.
The Honeysuckle Hill Bee-stro will open Friday and is located at 6367 N. Murphy Road in Brazil (formerly known as Hoosierville). Seating is first-come, first-served. For larger groups it is recommended to make reservations for the upper room. Reservations are being accepted for Easter and Mother’s Day brunches. For the special holiday events, seating times will be 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. with food being served family style for those occasions. Easter reservations need to be made by April 12. The Bee-stro is also available for special occasions like bridal showers, club gatherings, birthday parties, and more, during the week. To sign up for weekly emails that include menu items, among other information, or to make reservations or find directions, check out visit www.honeysucklehillbee.com/bee-stro, or call 812-443-3003.