Duluth Barrel Works & Lake Superior Honey Co.
This week’s entrepreneur sure stays busy. Between creating custom furniture at Duluth Barrel Works and producing some of the best honey (ever), Jon Otis has a positive impact on our local community. Both Jon and his wife, Erin, are business owners, so we’ve interviewed them independently to get their own perspective on our fair city.
First up, let’s meet Jon Otis, owner of Duluth Barrel Works and Lake Superior Honey Company.
How long have you been in business? We’re starting our 8th season with Lake Superior Honey Company and our 5th with Duluth Barrel Works.
How did you get started? I had been looking for something unique to add to the garden and chose to become a beekeeper. After tasting our first harvest and comparing it to other local beekeeper’s honey, we knew we needed to share the “Taste of Lake Superior” with our friends, neighbors, and people from around the region. We also wanted to offer a product that was free of chemicals, pesticides, and medications, and made by bees that are treated humanely.
In late 2009 to early 2010, we were looking for material to use for a special project. We purchased some barrels from a west coast winery and realized that the barrels wouldn’t work for the project. But, they were perfect for designing and building custom furniture and gift items. We reclaimed a waste product and give it new life. We soon discovered that local brewers were experimenting with barrel aging and sour beer. This opened a new and fun market for our barrels.
Why did you choose Duluth? We live here and love the area. We wouldn’t want to do this anywhere else!
What is one thing your business is primarily known for? For Lake Superior Honey Co, it’s our unique style of beekeeping with a focus on single-location free-foraged honey. For Duluth Barrel Works, we’re known for our custom furniture pieces, rain barrels, brewing quality barrels and being a zero waste business.
What is your favorite thing about Duluth? The friendly, creative and collaborative spirit amongst many different types of businesses.
What do you think about the current Duluth economy? The economy seems to be strong and on the rise. It is exciting to see all the new businesses and creative endeavors popping up around the region.
What would be your advice to someone thinking about opening a new business in Duluth? Have a good plan and a group of advisors you can bounce ideas off of. Take risks, collaborate, and have fun.
And now, the bonus round.
Favorite place to eat? Fitger’s Brewhouse (go for the Gale Force Wild Rice Burger!), Lake Avenue Restaurant, Northern Waters Smokehouse, New Scenic Cafe, and Zeitgeist Arts Cafe. Actually anywhere local, we have some really great options for dining!
Favorite local business in Duluth? Denny’s Ace Hardware! The best local hardware store in the region. Mark, Denny, and their team have been very supportive of our business. They are always ready to help with tools, materials, and advice.
Favorite Duluth “hidden gem”? Vikre Distillery and Hartley Park.