Meet Your Neighbor: Michelle (Graham) Forrester

Meet Your Neighbor: Michelle (Graham) Forrester

She is a fifth-generation Haywardite. She grew up in Hayward and worked seasonal jobs, waitressing and bartending at various restaurants. Her grandparents, Warren and Vivian Ogren, began the business that today is known as Beehive Botanicals.

Michelle is the daughter of LindaGraham, co-owner of Beehive Botanicals and Thomas Graham (now deceased). She has a younger brother—Matthew Graham, a research physicist, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife Madonna and two boys, Warren and Cormac.

Michelle graduated from Hayward High School. During the summers she worked seasonally at local establishments—Tally Ho, The Ranch, Richardson’s Bay Resort and Rudy’s on Round Lake, and Karibalis Restaurant. “It was great experience and I think everyone should have to work in the food service industry; it makes you appreciate how hard they all work and to have patience when you go out and just enjoy the experience instead of rushing through it,” Michelle said. After high school Michelle attended college at University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud, Minnesota, earning a degree in Business Administration and Finance from UMD.

“After I graduated college, I worked at American Express Financial Advisors (Ameriprise) – I always wanted to work in Minneapolis and especially downtown at the IDS building.  My Aunt Val lived in Minneapolis most of her life and we would always go downtown I remember one time looking at the building and I said, ‘One day I’m going to work in this building,’ and I did. I really enjoyed the city life, shopping, entertainment, restaurants. I worked at IDS (Ameriprise) from 1993-2000, starting out as a Customer Service Rep in the Mutual Fund and Annuities. When I left six years later, I was an Analyst in Advisor Compensation. When I decided to leave Minneapolis and move back to Hayward it was to buy a Bar/Grill on Round Lake – Bayside Lodge. Now, working at a restaurant and owning a restaurant are two very different experiences. Back in 2000 we had seasonal weather issues and employee shortages as well. I remember the first snow season—business was great and busy with lots of snow.

But then we had a few years of light snow and that really hurts a small business, as many experienced this year. The lake scene was starting to change. The locals were selling to second homeowners and all of a sudden, the lake was only busy on weekends and by Sunday afternoon it was dead quiet until Friday evening again.  After a few years I decided to shut down the business. The building needed too much work to keep up with codes, and property taxes were increasing drastically. When I purchased the business, I knew that if it didn’t work out I could always convert it into a home and either live there or sell it as a residence. After some serious thought and discussions with my mother I decided to go to work at Beehive and convert the bar into my home. I made some really good friendships while I was running Bayside and I can still tell you what most of them would drink. I may not remember everyone’s name but I know what they had to drink,” Michelle told the Record.

Today, Michelle is married to Russ Forrester and they have two children—Mackenzie, 17, and Parker, 14. Of her husband and children, Michelle said, “Russ is a retired mason, his family has a long history in Hayward as well; the Forrester’s (Don) and Boyle’s (Rose) were and are well known masons in the area. As a matter of fact, Russ helped his grandfather, when he was 16 years old, put the cement and stone steps that are still on our lake home property to this day, and we found a copy of a receipt in his father’s paperwork from when he built the fireplace in our current home, so our home has some family history ties to it as well. My daughter will be graduating this year from high school and attending UW-Madison in the fall. Parker is in 8th grade and is a talented artist, and he has been working with local artist Sara Balbin.”

Michelle’s ties to Hayward go back a long way. She said her Grandfather Warren and his parents, George and Annetta Ogren, moved to Hayward from International Falls, Minnesota in 1930. George was a logger. Warren was one of seven children. He married Vivian (Pfister) in Hayward in 1948. Vivian waitressed in the area at Telemark, The Pancake House and Cook Shanty. Warren and Vivian had four children: Linda, Jerry (deceased), Keith and Valerie (deceased).  Michelle’s mother, Linda, went to school in Minneapolis where she met and married Tom, Michelle’s father. The couple went back to Hayward when he was drafted for Vietnam.  Linda worked for many years as a lab and Xray technician at the Hayward Hospital, 

Beehive Botanicals 

I asked Michelle to talk about how the business began. “My grandparents started the business back in 1972. Warren was a hobby beekeeper and was the Postmaster in Hayward. He saw an article in a bee journal about buying propolis (tree resin mixed with their saliva that bees line their hive with) and started looking further into it and found that there was money to be made, so he started Propolis USA and it later became Beehive Botanicals. I have great memories of being at my grandparents’ house (which used to be just up the road from the current business).  My grandmother and her sisters would sit at the kitchen table with trays of propolis scrapings to clean by hand and my grandfather scraping the hives for honey or giving himself bee venom stings.  Oh, the memories and stories we have.  

“We don’t have hives here any longer and we do more than bee products. We are a contract manufacturer for dietary supplements for companies around the country. Last year, I brought back our branded skincare line “Honey Silk,” with shampoo, conditioner, day and night cream and a beeswax lip balm to add with our bee supplements ( My grandfather started the business with bee products and I feel it’s what we are known for and wanted to keep that line going.  We revamped the line formulas and the look, and our current products are really amazing. They smell and feel great; we use the best ingredients we can find. We employ over 40 people here and we truly believe we are a ‘family business,’ and care for each of our employees. Even though we’ve been in the same spot for 50 years and people may have heard about us, they didn’t necessarily know what we did.  We sell our branded products around the country, and with a new look and marketing plan, I hope to see it grow and people carry these amazing products from a little town in Wisconsin, owned and run by women.

“Today, I manage the day-to-day operations of the business along with the help of my team of employees, some who have been here over 25 years.  I’m very proud of this company and the products we sell, and I know my grandparents would be so proud of the company it has become, from its humble beginnings out of their garage and kitchen. Our employees work very hard to put out amazing products for our customers. I’m most proud of the fact that this business has provided us the opportunity not only to give profit sharing to our employees but to give back to the Hayward community as a whole. We donate a portion of profits back to different nonprofits, including the Hayward Food Shelf, Restore, Northwoods Humane Society, HFEE, Hayward Schools for Scholarships and LCO Scholarships.” Michelle said she volunteers for NHS, HFEE, and the school PAC (Parents assisting Canes). She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading. She reads about 40 books a year and calls it her “stress reliever.”

I asked her if she has any advice she’d like to share. “I think it’s really important to be involved in the community you live in, whether that means giving of your time to an organization that means a lot to you, or donating money. A town is built on the people willing to make it great; if you get involved you can help build it up. I also wish for people to give themselves and others grace and empathy. Being nice takes a lot less effort than anger and hate. We are all busy and have a lot on our plates these days; you need to take time for yourself. When you’re happy it reflects on others around you.”

Originally published April 24, 2024 in the Sawyer County Record. Article written by Kathy Hanson, Staff Reporter.

Back to blog