For Malakasis, that’s part of what gives cheese making its pleasure. And on the business end, those risks are essential to building Belle Chevre into the company she wants it to be.
The trick is getting people to differentiate Belle Chevre from all the other goat-cheese brands available. “I’ve got only 1.4 seconds to persuade people in the store to pick up my cheese, and no one in Connecticut knows that it was handmade and hand-packed by eight women in north Alabama, talking, having fun together, and listening to loud music. So my job is to figure out how I let people know how much we love doing this.”
And that brings us back to the glass box.
The idea of converting an old cotton warehouse into a state-of-the-art creamery is part of Malakasis’s plan to make Belle Chevre special. The lease on the company’s longtime headquarters is due to expire, so Malakasis will soon have to find (and build) a new home.
She needs it to be within a reasonable commute for her employees and to be flexible enough to expand if her venture in, say, chèvre cheesecake really takes off. But one of the main purposes of Belle Chevre’s new home will be to draw crowds in to hear (and be a part of) the Belle Chevre story.
“People want to come see us right now,” she says, “and I have to turn them away. There’s just no room.”
The glass box would give people room to come and see the cheese-making process, and the reinvented cotton warehouse would give people a reason to linger and return.
Malakasis also likes that the place is surrounded by pasture. Belle Chevre has no goats of its own (nor a place to milk them), so Malakasis sources fresh milk from a couple of dairies in southern Tennessee and North Carolina. But she is also considering starting a small herd of her own once Belle Chevre has settled into its new home. The goats will provide a little milk and add the right air of authenticity. She has even toyed with an idea she calls Kids for Kids. The program would pair up schoolchildren with goats, possibly even involve a cheese made from community-sourced milk and help reconnect people to their food supply.
“I’m not trying to change the world with goat cheese,” says Malakasis. “But we’re more than just in the food business; we’re also in the business of making people happy. We can help support this community in a meaningful way by creating quality, real food.” She takes a last, long look around the warehouse. “You know, I’ve got big dreams for this little creamery.”
Check out these delicious goat cheese recipes, courtesy of Belle Chevre: