I wrote a letter to Nick Offerman the other day. (Click here to read the letter.) The reason for this sudden outpouring of creativity and fanboy-dom isn’t entirely not because I feel like we could be “besties”. Quickly, let’s just state facts:
Nick and I are both Midwesterners.
Our names both begin with the letter “N”.
He digs Wendell Berry and devoted a chapter to Mr. Berry in his latest book, “Gumption” which you can find at any reputable bookstore (you’re welcome Nick, I got your back bro).
Manly facial hair… Check.
Cubs fan. Would have been a deal breaker if he were not.
But the true reason that I wrote to Mr. Offerman and the Offerman Woodshop is because of my latest venture.
As many of you (and by many, I mean most family members whom feel obligated to read these sporadic posts) know, early this month Thad, John, and myself had a “soft open” to showcase our building “The Hive: Chicago’s Beekeeping Supply Store.” We had a great time and were buoyed by the 100 plus friends and beekeepers that came out in the cold to celebrate our folly with us.
The Hive will hopefully serve as valuable resource to Chicago beekeepers and enthusiasts. Rather than order from a big beekeeping supply store (yes, mom, they do exist), urban beekeepers can call upon us and have the materials they need in a pinch. Also, The Hive works collaboratively with Westside Bee Boyz, but is a separate entity and I’m at the helm, so keep those fingers crossed!
So within a month (fingers still crossed? good) we will officially open and serve our beekeeping brethren here in North Lawndale. North Lawndale? Yes, 3414 W. Roosevelt Rd. Chicago, IL 60624, on the north side of the street.
We are Westside Bee Boyz, and rather than picking a bourgeoisie north side locale or quaint suburban town, we are Westside and proud of it. In our brief time in North Lawndale so many great community members, such as Alderman Scott, Rodney Brown and the CDC staff, UCAN, North Lawndale Greening Committee, N.L. 3C, and many more have welcomed us.
We hope to be part of the grassroots movement led by the members above (and many more) to be a catalyst for positive change in the community. Which brings me back to my letter to Mr. Offerman, and my ideals associated with The Hive.
Beekeeping can be a transformative tool for change. My partner Thad Smith is the poster child of this statement, having no previous beekeeping experience and a prior record; his opportunities for reentering full employment were slim, but North Lawndale Employment Network taught him skills, “Sweet Beginnings” provided an opportunity, and beekeeping led him back to where he is today: a business owner.
With the supply store, I will soon be hiring employees from the Westside to teach basic carpentry skills with our wooden ware, food handling skills with the food-grade kitchen we are installing, management and retail experience, textile workers for protective bee equipment, and on and on. All due to beekeeping.
So there are a few of the lofty goals we are striving for, hopefully we will achieve a few, and if Nick decides to respond, I’d chalk that up as a win too.
Dear Mr. Offerman and the Offerman Woodshop,
Hope you are all doing well. My name is Naaman Gambill and I am a beekeeper, teacher, small business owner, and of course, ardent meat consumer located in Chicago, IL. I will try not to come on too strong, but Mr. Offerman you are my jam. There I said it. My reason for writing you and the rest of the Offerman Woodshop crew is that upon reading your new publication, Gumption, and more specifically upon reading your “Wendell Berry” and “George Saunders” chapters, I said, “Fuck it. What do I have to lose?”
So I am drawing from the Nick Offerman playbook with Bellicheckian deviousness, to impart to you and your team members a (mostly) honest request for assistance/guidance.
As I do not doubt that you are (all) extremely busy, and I do not doubt that this and near all attempts of correspondences are screened, here’s what I’m about.
As I stated, I am a beekeeper and small business owner in Chicago, IL. As a beekeeper, I use woodenware daily, and as a beekeeping supply store (The Hive: Chicago’s Beekeeping Supply Store, located at 3414 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood…not a plug, just a fact) I sell woodenware to other beekeepers in the Chicagoland area.
Here is the rub. I am looking for skilled woodworkers, and more importantly, woodworking teachers in the Chicago area. A goal of mine is to hire on local Westside residents and teach valuable skills that might allow them economic empowerment, specifically carpentry skills.
So there, I could go on, and would gladly do so over a trip to Lagunitas brewery, or destroying a whole chicken at FEED, eating the Publican out of all their meats, or over a tasty Old Style in the bleachers. But I digress.
Again, thank you all for the work you do, whether it be with your hands and sculpting beautiful pieces of wooden art, or nailing one liners and praising the works of Mr. Berry.
Naaman M. Gambill
Co-Founder of Westside Bee Boyz and The Hive
“Mad Farmer” in training