Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PART 2 - The Cheese Queen's Story: The First 3 Years

What had they gotten themselves into?!

That's their Jersey, Nellie in the middle

By the end of our first episode (Part 1 - The Cheese Queen's Story), Ricki and Bob had pretty much made their decision to go into the cheese making supply business.  Only one problem - they had a stack of requests for catalogs and no catalog!

So, they quickly put together a two page mimeographed list of supplies and sent it to their potential customers:

That was in 1978, the year the business began ...

Amazingly, Ricki and Bob sold $15,000 worth of supplies that first year!  (Of course, that was a lot more money back then than it is now ...)  Their business office was on the kitchen table and the inventory was stored in the living room and the front hall.

It took a long time for the press to understand how Ricki spells her name!

In an early issue of the Ashfield News, Ricki told a reporter:

"People think we're a big company and even call us collect.  One lady called us up because she didn't know what curds look like.  She didn't know what to expect.  She said, "Now what do I do?"  She called a few other times- like every 10 minutes.  That's when we decided to have workshops."

So, in 1979, they held their first workshop with 6 students.  (Every single one of them went on from there to become commercial cheese makers.)  Many of them still make a point of thanking Ricki for helping them change their lives.

At this time, Ricki and Bob were working three days per week on the business.  Bob was also teaching full time at the Mohawk Regional School and Ricki was caning chairs and selling wood stoves.  They were still milking 5 goats.

In 1979, they produced their first printed catalog.  It had 16 pages and over half of them consisted of pictures and information about how to make cheese.   The illustrations were created by friend and neighbor, Linda Taylor who is still providing the artwork for NECS.

In 1980, 20 minutes after teaching a workshop, Ricki gave birth at home (with a midwife) to their first child, Jenny. 

Bob's parents came from Concord to see their new grandchild

Not too many babies have their own file cabinet!

The birth of their daughter marked a new chapter in Ricki and Bob's lives.  With increased responsibility, they now embarked more seriously on the business of making a living.  Fortunately, the foundation they had built so far proved to be solid enough to support their goals and the business flourished.

Stay tuned for the next episode ....

No comments: