Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vermont Butter and Cheese Company’s 25th Anniversary

Hard to believe it’s been 25 Years! At times it actually feels more like 50 years!

When Adeline first asked me to share a few memories about our early years my first thought was oh no, I would rather not! But how can you say no to Adeline, you just don’t say no to Adeline! Bob calls her his secret weapon, the smart and beautiful French women that no French chef will say no to! Yes, Adeline we will buy your butter and yes, Adeline we will by your goat cheese and yes, Adeline we will buy your Crème Fraiche!

So tonight I will share with you a few of my very early memories about the beginning of Vermont Butter and Cheese Co.

The story that frequently gets published about Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. and how it first started is somewhat romanticized: “ young Bob meets young Allison the cheese maker and they go off and make French Style cheeses in the lovely Green Mountains of Vermont. I’m here tonight to fill in just a few of the blanks. So I wrote a short story entitled Young Bob and Young Allison the cheese maker.

It all started 25 years ago when young Bob announced to his young wife that he had quit his job and was starting a cheese company with young Allison the cheese maker.

Young MBA Graduate Bob pulled out his yellow legal pad and proceeded to convince young wife that this was a flawless business venture, one that would lead to financial security and an early retirement.

Young wife had great faith in her young Bob and her new friend young Allison the cheese maker.

Just a few weeks later young Bob and young Allison arrived at young wife’s house with their first patch of cheese that they made at the UVM dairy lab. They called this new cheese a Tomme style cheese which in France was aged in stone caves. Young Bob and young Allison convinced young wife that her stone basement resembled the caves of France and would be a perfect environment to age the new cheese. Young Bob assures young wife that the mold they have sprayed throughout the basement is harmless and will be contained in the plastic walls young Bob has constructed. Young wife is somewhat skeptical but still has great faith in young Bob and young Allison the cheese maker.

Young Allison is very excited about her new cheese and tends to it daily, salting the rind and carefully turning it. Young wife tries to ignore the changing air quality in her home and young Bob assures her the mold growing on the bathroom walls has nothing to do with the mold they have sprayed in the basement.

That first winter is a lean one for young Bob and young wife. Young Bob assures young wife that next winter we will be able to afford heating oil and will no longer have to sleep on the kitchen floor in front of the wood stove. That same winter young wife is stricken with Pneumonia and is convince that it has some correlation with the mold that has engulfed her home. Young Bob is given an ultimatum by his young wife. The aging room is soon disassembled and moved to another location. Hence, the beginning of cheese production at the Hooper Farm in Brookfield Vermont.

Young Allison toiled day and night making cheese in the small milk house on the Hooper Farm while young Bob packed it into coolers and headed to Boston in his yellow Subaru Wagon, determined to find a market for their cheese.

Young Bobs belief in his company never wavers even when young wife’s father asks him, “Bob, when will you be getting a real job”. Young Bob again pulls out his yellow legal pad and with numbers and grafts tries to convince young wife’s father that this is a viable business venture. Young wife’s father remained skeptical.

Young Allison the cheese maker marries slightly older Don and they had three son. Young Bob and young wife also had three sons. The families intermingle throughout the years enjoying camping trips and long weekends at Squam Lake. Like brothers, the six boys and are often heard strategizing on how they will someday run the company.

Over the years young Bob and young Allison become known as Bob and Allison. They experience many ups and downs from construction delays, to too much milk, to not enough milk, good mold, bad mold, good cheese and yes, sometimes bad cheese. But over the years one thing remained constant and that was Bob and Allison’s determination, dedication and hard work. Anything was possible and they never stopped believing.

In 2008 Bob and Allison’s life’s work was recognized at the Fancy Food show in New York City when they captured the coveted “Outstanding Product Line” award, chosen from over 5000 specialty food products.

Today, we celebrate an older Bob and older Allison, two people who have formed a lasting business relationship built on respect, admiration and friendship. They are admired and respected as the pioneers of the Vermont Specialty Cheese Industry.

It’s with fond memories that we remember those that have supported Vermont Butter and Cheese Co over the years but are no longer with us. Allison’s parents Dr.and Mrs. Reisner and Don’s Mom Marion Hooper would be beaming with pride tonight on the success of their daughter and Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. My Dad, Bob Collopy, who passed away five years ago today, would also be so proud of their accomplishments, but if he was here you can bet that with a twinkle in his eye he would still be asking “Bob, when are you going to get a real job?”

Tonight, I older wife congratulates my dear friend Allison and the love of my life, Bob.
Sandy Reese, August 22, 2009