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"Honey For Sale"

Down Highway 31 in Spring Hill sits a building, small and yellow, that is home to Early’s Honey Stand - a store that is brimming with history and sweet and savory items for the whole family to enjoy.

Ninety-eight years ago, just feet away from the store’s location today, the business was just as its name describes – a stand. “It was literally two barrels with a plank of wood across the top, honey in the summer, and smoked meats in the winter,” described Ally Losey, Marketing Coordinator for Early’s.

In the 1920s, before the Interstate Highway System, people took Route 31 from the top of Michigan all the way down to Florida, Ally explained. “There used to be a toll gate right here, and that’s what made this prime real estate. People had to stop.” The toll gate was removed in 1919, but Early’s Honey Stand remained a delightful roadside attraction.

In 1925, on Highway 31, under a mulberry tree, Erskine Early and his mother Mamie Elgate Kincaid Early began selling jars of raw, local honey, farmed on the very property the business still sits on today. Soon Early’s was selling honey and fruit during the summers and smoked sausages and country hams during the winters. Erskine incorporated Mamie’s recipes to include more items he knew would please his customers.

Since the early 1950s, Early’s has had an annual mail-order catalog. Today’s catalog is twenty-something pages of mouth-watering items for ordering and a couple of pages of amusing storytelling.

Early’s Honey Stand has grown from honey and sausage to an array of delicious products from jams, jellies and preserves to half slabs of bacon and whole smoked county hams. They offer jugs of maple syrup, cartons of cider spices, jars of chow chow relish and other pickled vegetables, barbeque sauces, hot sauces, mustards, and the list goes on and on. Many of these items and plenty more can be purchased in one of Early’s bountiful gift boxes to be ordered or be made on-site in the store.

Some of the items they pour their heart and soul into at Early’s are their smoked meats. Early’s spends nine months salt-curing and aging their country hams to perfection before placing them in the smokehouse to give them the same hickory smoked flavor they’ve been serving up since 1925. Early’s sausage is ground, seasoned and allowed to sit for 24-48 hours before being bagged and placed in the smokehouse for several days. This detailed process is what sets them apart from other sausages that simply don’t possess the same quality and flavor. As for their bacon, it has been called some of the best bacon sold in America. Early’s sells prime, lean-cut bacon, rubbed in their special seasonings and spices and smoked over hickory wood, that’s sure to get your feet on the floor in the morning at the smell of it.

About to turn the corner on a century of business, Early’s Honey Stand is developing a delightful exhibit of its history at the front of the store including a beekeeping feature and kitchen appliances and tools from the 1920s that the Early’s would have used around the time of the raising of their first, humble, honey stand.