Our daily lives of work, caretaking, and errands often leave us drained and in need of an escape.
If it’s not vacation season, the weekend seems miles away, and curling up with a good book is just not cutting it this week, head to The Hens & Honey Shoppe in downtown Swedesboro.
This delightful shop, tucked into the unassuming row of businesses along Kings Highway, offers a surprising, welcoming, and relaxing salve to your senses, and provides a brief, albeit much-needed escape, from your “everyday.”
“I want every customer to know that when they walk through my door, that I appreciate each and every one of them. I want them to forget about everything that’s going on outside and just let the aroma of my shop make them feel good,” explained Valerie Robinson, proprietor of Hens & Honey.
“I absolutely love Swedesboro,” said Robinson. “I’m very glad that they accepted me with open arms, and I hope that my little shop brings more people to our beautiful historic town.”
Robinson joined the Swedesboro business community when she moved her shop from the location on her family farm in Mannington where she resides with her husband Scott, daughter Marlena (age 19), and son Sam (age 14).
The dynamic and energetic Robinson, together with her family, farms almost 1,500 acres of grain including corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, and rye. But not all of the soybeans leave the farm.
“I make every single candle that’s in my shop. All of my candles are 100 percent soy, and I also add my very own soybean oil from the beans in the fields we harvest,” explained Robinson.
The farm is also home to over 80 pecan trees, some of which she sells in the shop after the harvest, and some of which are used in Robinson’s handmade body products.
“I extract the oil from the nuts, and put it in some of the soap, lotion, and other products I have in my shop,” explained Robinson.
“But not everything has pecan oil because people have allergies,” she added.
In addition to the high-quality candles and bath and body products, Hens & Honey features unique handbags, backpacks, hats, sweaters, t-shirts, dresses, tops, and other boutique apparel, handmade jewelry, home goods, crafts, condiments like honeys and jams, and even locally prepared treats such as charcuterie and cheese snacks and French macarons.
Robinson makes or sources the majority of her products from local artisans, and all products are made in the U.S.A.
Some featured local artisans include, but are not limited to, Black Bird Local Farm to Fork Bake Shop, Carpenter Creative Co. handmade accessories, Dawn Brown Jewelry, Board-Eat Pretty lunch and dessert boards, Tesoro Macaron Company, Signs by Caltabianos, Buckhorn Brood Honey, Anthony’s Honey, and Harvey’s Honey.
In addition to providing Swedesboro with the Hens & Honey experience, Robinson is known as a tireless supporter of local businesses.
The video in which she stars and sings, entitled “Good Morning Swedesboro,” features a fun and festive tour around downtown Swedesboro and its businesses. See the video at https://fb.watch/9oWmt1u8Op/
On some Saturdays, weather permitting, Hens & Honey invites local artisans to sell their wares in front of the shop, which not only aids the sellers and brings customers to the store, but invites more shoppers into the downtown area.
And in the spirit of supporting their efforts, Robinson allows the sellers to do this at no cost during these “Small Business Saturdays,” which she promotes on her heavily followed social media accounts.
Robinson explained her supportive business philosophy.
“Since the beginning of opening my shop, I’ve always tried to help and support other small businesses. I think people sometimes get the misconception that if one business helps another business, they’re going to lose customers, and that’s not true. If all small businesses stick together and support each other, we will all thrive!”
In addition to taking care of all the baby animals on the farm and preparing to attend nursing school, Robinsons’ 19-year-old daughter, Marlena, also keeps busy working with her mom at Hens & Honey.
“Working with my mom in her beautiful shop is so fun. My mom is my best friend and being able to help support her and all of her crazy ideas and projects is always a good time,” Marlena said.
One of Robinson’s chief products are her handmade, 100 percent soybean candles, which are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Most notably, she’s the only person in the state of New Jersey who grows and extracts her own farmed soybean oil for use in her candles.
New and exciting scents are always on offer at the shop, including seasonal favorites like Apple Pie and Farm Fresh Trees, and unique new blends like wild lavender and oak moss and spiced honey and tobacco leaf. A candle called Dorothy Willow, to honor and celebrate Robinson’s pet cow and company mascot, is reminiscent of lemons and sweet cream.
Robinson has even developed a new scent called “fruit basket,” which will be part of her holiday gift basket assortment this year.
One of the striking things about Robinson, in addition to her gorgeous products and unwavering support of the small business community, in her uninhibited enthusiasm and sense of humor.
This humor is evident not only on her social media posts and videos (see https://www.facebook.com/henshoneyshoppe and https://www.instagram.com/henshoneyshoppe/), but in the products she chooses for her shop and even to make herself.
Prepare to have a chuckle when you encounter unique and whimsical offerings like “Oh Balls,” a new seasonal candle scent featuring soft pine mixed with warm vanilla undertones, “Santa Farts,” a candle smelling of sugar cookies, and Pennywise, a candle reminiscent of the scary dancing clown from the book and movie “It,” smelling of cinnamon, apples, and berries.
So next time you need an escape, even just a brief jaunt, head to the Hens & Honey Shoppe at 1422 Kings Highway in Swedesboro. Fill your senses with beautiful things, have a chat with the friendly and charmingly quirky proprietor, grab a tasty snack, and pick up a unique holiday gift or two.
And don’t forget to get a little something just for yourself.
By Colleen Woods-Esposito