Frequently asked questions:
How did you get into selling cheese?
Back in 2012 I was in need of a big change in my life. My mom threw out the idea that I should open a cheese shop. I had worked in the food industry most my adult life but knew nothing about cheese and was terrified to go into business by myself. Impulsively I asked a friend, Barbara Densley, if she wanted to start a business together. We were already comrades in the arts and craft show circuit, she had retail experience and the willingness to give it a go. To learn about cheese I discovered that Murray’s cheese in NYC offer a cheese boot camp! One of my oldest friends and Brooklyn resident Amy and her family graciously hosted me as I attended this fun and informative class. I had lodging covered, now to learn about cheese and come up with a plan on exactly what kind of cheese I wanted to sell.
Here is where local food writer, Patrick Evans-Hylton comes into the story!
There were 14 students from all over the US and Canada in attendance, one of the just happened to be Patrick. What are the odds? Over dinner one night I was telling him what Barb and I were doing and why I was there and he mentions that he is on the board of Old Beach Farmers Market and they were in need of someone to take over the provisions tent they were managing themselves. They were selling a variety of items sourced in Virginia but too far away for the actual makers to come, one of which was CHEESE.
Barbara was as excited as I was at the prospect of selling regional cheese which lead us to the concept of all of our gift items being local and American made. In 2013 The Creative Wedge: An Artisan Market opened to the public. It was a magical place filled with beautiful handmade gifts. The food part of it never became what I had originally envisioned for it, maybe if I had actually prepared and served food it could have been different but that wasn’t something we were interested in doing. So we ended up being a gift shop that sold cheese, odd I know but it made us happy.
In the beginning we took a huge hit on cheese loss as we didn’t have the customer base to sell it and only attended the one farmers market. Not to mention the margins on the farmstead cheeses we were buying weren’t very profitable. We didn’t want to give up supporting these farms so I suggested we start producing my Memaw’s Pimento Cheese. We could make it with commodity cheeses and the margin would be better therefore balancing out the loss we were taking with the artisan cheese. It was a obviously a hit as I am still making pimento cheese as well as five additional flavors 10 years later. Ends up that Old Beach Farmers Market turned out to not only be be a great way to advertise our brick and mortar it was also profitable. At the urging of a friend we eventually added an additional three farmers markets into our business plan.
For years friends had been telling me that the cheese was a viable business on it’s own. It was clear that the cheese was outgrowing the retail space I was producing in as I did something involving cheese every single day, often using our one full time employee and leaving Barb to manage everything on the retail side alone. Now that I am over the plethora of emotions that come from a “failed” business venture I can see that when The Creative Wedge closed it’s doors in 2021 it was time for me to move on. Life Is Gouda is the offspring of The Wedge and it’s a thriving small business that has me working my tail off 7 months out of the year and I wouldn’t change a thing.