Please Join our Kickstarter
Artisan Cheese Company is on the move. We have exciting plans to expand our offerings to create a next level 2.0 Artisan Cheese Company, Kitchen + Provisions @ Rosemary Place, in the heart of the Rosemary district, part of the “downtown edge” in Sarasota. (click anywhere on this page to go directly to our Kickstarter page) and please share with your people. It's all or nothing. If we don't receive all of the $, we don't receive a penny)
AND - we are creating an Apprentice Kitchen where we will bring in a cohort of apprentices who will be mentored through the community of food.
We are at our core, a cheese shop.
Cheese – it’s our first love. It’s who we are, and we've been at it for five + years, diligently carving out a place on the landscape of American cheese retail. We have introduced cheeses to Florida that were never here before, and we're proud of our cheese counter. In our new location at Rosemary Place, we will have space to store and even age cheese at the shop, and because of that we will be able to wholesale to more restaurants. And in our expanded kitchen we will be able to make our own fresh cheese and mozzarella. As of April, 2018, our new location, on the corner of Central and Blvd of the Arts in the heart of the Rosemary District, will be everything you love about us, and more....
We are a community centered around food. We already serve a farmer's market driven lunch, and in our new space we'll have more tables. To add to what we already do, we're going to add a farm shop – we’ll be bringing in a farm cart filled with seasonal produce, plus milk and eggs. We'll have an ice cream counter, and we’ll be making our own soft serve ice cream from local milk. Once we get rolling we will add a delivery van (even if it comes in the form of a three wheel bicycle).
We will have an event space, and a private tasting room, large enough for a party, or a meeting. And we have a wine specialist on staff who will be curating a wine section specifically focused on pairing with cheese. So look for wine dinners and tastings.
But the really exciting news is our Mentoring program - the Apprentice Kitchen. Every time we engage with our customers, we share our stories. Everyone has a story, and for some their story is yet unwritten. Central to the new project will be a mentoring program run inside our kitchen – Our Apprentice Kitchen, based on the twin concerns that are closest to the heart of what we do, and why we are here – cooking from scratch with well sourced ingredients, in a zero waste kitchen. The kitchen will be a manufacturing kitchen where we will create a line of house-made preserves and pickles made by in the apprentice kitchen, as well as a line of custom popcorn from a Southern corn kernel and house-made toppings. We’ll offer ready to eat foods for the busy professional, and have them available for pick up on their way home after work. We hope to partner will local community organizations such as Girl's Inc.
With your help we will build a beautiful kitchen filled with the nuts and bolts of essential equipment – a new induction range; a walk in; a ventless hood system (or we may need to add a incredibly pricey hood system therefore it's a necessary expense that has added to our initial budget); a double convention oven; new Boos work tables; a full size robo coupe food processor; a sandwich prep station; a jar sterilizer; a label maker; aprons and uniforms. Just to name a few specifics. We have 45 days to raise $45,000 and I think we can do this together. But please note, if we don't raise all the Kickstarter funds in their entirety, we don't get a penny. But we are tenacious! We hope to raise more than the $45K we're aiming for, and complete this Kickstarter by exceeding our goal. I know we can do this.
As with all good storytellers, we have a knack of finding narratives in others; the story within the story, the one that’s behind the words, or that hovers just under the surface. Knowing how to cook is an empowering life skill – but for so many, the lesson of learning how to cook from scratch is skipped. It's no longer taught in schools, and for many, their only brush with food is in fast food restaurants, assembly line corporate kitchens.
Opportunities found in culinary programs in colleges are often beyond the reach of many. And yet we have witnessed, right inside our own cheese shop, young women whose confidence are restored once they learn that a soup stock doesn’t come from a box, or a can, and that magic can be created from just a few ingredients. We know that when we give meaningful work around learning about food, people soar. Together we can change the direction of the wind.
HOW WILL WE DO THIS? We will bring in apprentices from inside our community, and partner with established organizations, to create a class of 8 to 10 women and teach them what we know. Neither a charity nor a not for profit, the kitchen will be run as a business by women under our guidance. We will involve the local farming community to show where food comes from. We will use every ingredient, and teach how not to waste, in what we call our "circular kitchen". The apprentices will learn how to make, how to sell, and then they will teach each other, and then give back to their community.
Each apprentice will take a turn behind the cheese counter, where we will teach about artisanal cheese. And we'll bring in local chefs to teach seminars. We will reach out to business leaders across Sarasota to lend their expertise in a myriad of ways. And during the year we will run a dinner series out of the apprenticeship program where we will invite people from the community, business leaders, to come in and put an apron on, and serve a community dinner. Each apprentice will invite a person from their community they would like to mentor, as their VIP guest. The proceeds of ticket sales will be a revenue center for the program.
The Apprentice Kitchen will be the heartbeat of the shop.
In order to help us get to our goal of kitting our new kitchen, we've created some special rewards to sweeten the deal. We don't want to push any particular reward on to you, and any amount is welcomed.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Who we are
Culture / Ownership / Management
The sustained success of Artisan Cheese Company is due in large part to the personalities behind the counter and in the kitchen. The Artisan Cheese Company team consists of a group of enthusiastic, kind, and dedicated women, who are passionate about introducing customers to the magic and alchemy of cheese. The new project will create additional jobs for 6 more people, and 8 – 10 paid apprenticeships a year.
Louise Kennedy Converse / Owner
Louise is the tenacious owner and visionary behind Artisan Cheese Company. Prior to cheese, Louise was the deputy director of a multi-year initiative on Community in America at Harvard Kennedy School, which focused around the research of Professor Robert Putnam’s work on social capital and community in America. During her 20 years on and off as a senior administrator at Harvard University, she managed the national rollout of several book projects, coordinated and managed several multi-national conferences, an annual transnational two-week symposiums in England, and oversaw general fundraising and financial stewardship for the research program. But strangely she would find herself eavesdropping at the cheese counter at many area cheese shops, as often as she could. Louise has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking and graphic design, followed by graduate studies on the History of Art and Architecture. During the 80s she dabbled for some time in the fine art world selling art in Santa Fe, NM. Further back, like most people wandering around looking for meaning, Louise spent time working in restaurants where she cultivated her love for food and cookbooks. She is a bit of a techno geek. Louise is originally from England and Scotland. She’s always loved cheese, and her first cheese memory was Stilton. She has always wanted to open up a proper cheese shop. Artisan Cheese Company is the realization of this dream.
Kailene Quinn, Manager/Chef
Kailene comes from a large family where food and community have always been the heartbeat of her home. Kailene is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelors in Professional Studies. Her talents were further honed by working for the best in the industry – studying under Patrick O’Connell at the Inn at Little Washington, a Michelin rated property, and later as a member of the opening team at The Four Seasons in Orlando. Kailene’s drive and focus combined with a desire to create a more personal impact around food and community brought her to Artisan Cheese Company where she has taken on the role of lead cheese monger, manager and Chef. During her time at the shop she has implemented a market driven menu that changes weekly, and designed an occasional dinner series that highlights regional and local produce. And cheese of course.
Mariah Helm - Assistant manager / Cheese monger
Mariah is responsible for new customer development and wholesale to restaurants. Mariah is a lover of food, particularly cheese. Her childhood was spent in Wisconsin where she frequented small cheese and meat shops looking for cheddar, cheese curds, or anything tasty. Mariah moved to Sarasota with her family as a young teen, and went on to graduate from the University of North Florida with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration, focusing on entrepreneurship. Her passion for small business stems from her parents, and their desire to each run their own businesses, doing what they love. Mariah believes in Sarasota, and is dedicated to being part of what makes it a reason for young people to stay. Mariah is in charge of the team of cheese mongers who will run the shop.
Kiara Kincheloe - Wine specialist / Cheese monger.
A born and bred Midwesterner, Kiara enjoyed 10 years working as a marketer for theater and live events in Chicago and New York. Since relocating to sunny Sarasota in Spring 2017, she has been working to fulfill a longstanding dream to build a career in food and wine. Kiara is in the final stages of securing her Certified Specialist of Wine designation through the Society of Wine Educators, and is very excited to be on the Artisan Cheese Company team as their newest monger and wine specialist.
We are in the business of being in business, so we have to move in order to grow. We are not leaping casually into this next iteration of Artisan Cheese Company. We’ve tried so hard to argue to stay at Lower Main Street – we love the preciousness of the shop, the look and feel, how it looks like a proper cheese shop, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time, and there are so many things that we have to wrestle every single day – the building is old and it's cranky; there’s no room in the kitchen for one more appliance; the office is also a storage closet; we can’t add any more seats; and parking …. parking is a problem. So for us not to move would be our greatest risk, and it would be another five years of peddling really fast and hard, and there’s so much more for us to do.
Moving into a larger space would be incredibly challenging IF we didn’t understand our audience, IF we hadn’t spent almost six years listening to what people want, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. My friend Jackie says that I need to throw spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks – I’ve gone through a lot of boxes at this point and I really understand what we have to do, and how to do it.
Some would say why not just recreate the cheese shop in a new and improved location and leave it at that, why the Apprentice kitchen? Because it’s the reason I’m here. Every day of my professional life has brought me to this opportunity. And if not me, then who?
Since we've been in business for almost six years, we are fortunate to be able to move with our current cheese shop equipment. But our new space is 2.5 times what we have right now, so that means we need to fill it with equipment. For perspective - a walk in cooler runs around $10-13K. Ovens, prep coolers, tables, and small ware equipment will run us another $20K. And the ice cream machine - this will easily run 10K. We're on a tight budget, but we're experts at working in an easy bake kitchen, so we are up for the challenge. We are not planning on throwing money at fancy.
But we are dealing with a new build out, and new code restrictions. One of which might be the need for a hood system, which is vented up three floors. If we have to, we will cut out the expense of a walk in fridge to meet this cost, and we are prepared to move line items around.
I’ve drawn my plans up, we have an architect hired, and we’ll take our drawings to city hall to go through the permit process. That will take us through the end of December, which is okay because it’s our busiest month ever, and then come January we build out.
We’re ready for this. We know it in our bones. And if we don’t know something we have experts lined up out there to help us figure it out. In the meantime we will still be open at our Main Street location and will move things over as soon as we possibly can, likely in April. By that time we will have identified our first set of apprentices, and will have hired a few new staff members so that our transition will be seamless.