Thursday, October 20, 2011

Help Kick-Start Belle Chevre Creamery's New Digs

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 5:50 AM

Architects drawing of the new Belle Chevre facility
  • Architect's drawing of the new Belle Chevre facility
Belle Chevre goat cheese has become familiar to cheese lovers in Tennessee and Alabama and beyond. It's well-known, well-liked, and, well, too big for its premises.

It's OK with owner Tasia Malakasis that they churn out up to 2,000 pounds of cheese a week from 800 square feet of production space. And it's OK that the packaging operations are conducted here and there in the tank rooms and office space.

It's even OK — if a little crazy — that to supply the biggest delivery trucks, she and other creamery workers must pile cheese into their own trucks and cars and drive it to the end of the driveway because big trucks can't make it up the gravel path.

But when groups want to visit Belle Chevre, Malakasis has to say "no" because there's not enough space for more than a couple of people.

So Malakasis found a lovely piece of land in Elkmont, Ala., and hired an architect, who conjured a plan for a new creamery building that includes a cooking school, classrooms and a loading dock.

Outgrowing your facility is a good problem for a small artisanal food producer. Less good these days is having to go to the bank for a small business loan.

So Belle Chevre is launching a Kickstarter campaign today to raise $100,000 toward the purchase of the land.

Malakasis hopes people who love the cheese and support regional producerswill invest a little or a lot to the effort. In return are goodies ranging from that warm feeling you get when you do a good deed, to Belle Chevre T-shirts, adopt-a-goat or Tasia's forthcoming cookbook. Or score big with a shot at product development, a signed and numbered print or a weekend getaway at the new property.

There's also a Buy-a-Block campaign, if you prefer to invest offline. Contact the creamery for that.

Today an investment in a trusted local food source, and tomorrow, who knows? If Malakasis' hopes are met, Belle Chevre can hold cooking classes and tours, and make new products including yogurt and ice cream, soft-ripened cheeses, feta and cheese straws.

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