Nashville Gem: The Bloomy Rind
Cheese: The not-so-secret ingredient that makes everything taste better. Admit it, to this day it’s the only reason you semi-enjoy eating broccoli.
When you think “Iconic Nashville,” you think country music and hot chicken… But cheese? That’s starting to change thanks to The Bloomy Rind, a cheese counter located inside Porter Road Butcher. Behind the counter is the owner, Kathleen Cotter. Kathleen is a cheesemonger, someone who collects and sells cheeses, and her specialty is scouting out the best locally produced cheeses.
You might not have heard of her, but there is a good chance you’ve tried her cheese. (Her cheese plates are featured at tons of restaurants in the nashville area — see the complete list at the end of the post!) Kathleen came to Nashville to study at Vanderbilt, and then like most Nashvillians, she spent a stint in the music industry working for a record label. She knew she had a bigger dream: step up the cheese game in Nashville. In 2010 Kathleen began selling local cheeses at the farmer’s market. She would work with her Chef friends, picking out the best tasting seasonal cheeses to comprise their gourmet cheese plates, and in 2011 she met the team behind Porter Road Butcher.
“They were planning on opening their shop and I pitched them on having a cheese counter in their store. They said yes, and here we are. We’re the only cut to order cheese shop in Nashville, and we’re in the only butcher shop that does sustainably raised meat. It seems like a great fit.”
We wanted to learn more about what makes a great cheese and to pick Kathleen’s brain on running a small business in Nashville.
Tell us about the cheeses here at The Bloomy Rind
I source the cheese already made. All in all, there are around 100 farms that I work with, but 30 or so that I order from very regularly. I get the cheese directly from the producers, so I’m really connected to where it’s coming from and how it’s made. We have conversations about the process, the seasonality of the cheeses, or if they are trying out a new recipe they’ll send over samples so we can talk about it.
Why local cheeses?
When you are purchasing from a local business, part of it is about the money. It means the money stays close to home. You’re helping your community and not some big corporation on the other side of the country.
It also means that you know more about what you’re getting. I know so much about the dairies and about where these cheeses are coming from, and I’m able to convey that to those customers who are concerned about where their food comes from. Also, the short travel distance means you are getting the freshest and best product. Most people get that when it comes to produce, but it holds true for all food. It’s all about getting the best quality.
What is the hardest thing about running a small business?
When you are super small, you wear all the hats. You work the counter, sell wholesale, act as the buyer. You’re in charge of marketing, finance, everything. Juggling that, taking care of all the moving parts, is hard work. There is a lot to do and you don’t always have the expertise in certain areas. You have to learn on the fly. It’s something I enjoy, but you are always trying to keep up.
What is the best part of running a small business?
Even when it’s hard, it’s still my baby. I’m proud of it. I built something — and that’s a great feeling. There is a whole lot of great cheese being sold now in Nashville, and that might not have been the case otherwise. That also means that I help the cheese maker do what they do, so it feels good to support this local ecosystem.
Is there anything you wish you had known before you started?
Some of the nuts and bolts of accounting. I tend to jump into things and figure them out as I go. It would have been nice to have those systems in place before launch.
Do you feel like Nashville is a good place to start a small business?
I do feel that way. The Pathway Women’s Business Center has been an incredible resource. It’s a cooperative with the Small Business Association and they’re always doing classes or events. I’ve learned a lot from those. There is also a CPA on staff, so once a year I take him my numbers and he helps me analyze it. They have a lot of resources there.
And of course, the customers here are incredible. They are so supporting and want to see you do well.
What was the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
Take on as little debt as possible.
I had all these student loans after graduating. I ran up credit card debt. I got entrenched in it, and you become trapped. And maybe that forces you to stay in a job you don’t like just so you can pay it off. Paying off my debt was pivotal for me.
One thing that helped was Dave Ramsey’s radio program. I learned some useful tactics that let me get completely out of debt by my early 30’s.
Living below your means is the way to do it. I’ve never purchased a new car. I replaced a 15-year-old care with a 10-year-old car — I’d love to have a new one, but it doesn’t make financial sense. It doesn’t fit with my life goals.
What cheeses are hot right now, not like melted — but like everyone should try them?
Within the past 10-15 years, we’ve started making phenomenal cheese in this country. It used to be you had to go to Europe, but American cheeses are winning competitions on the world stage. They are operating on that caliber. I’d recommend exploring what you can find locally.
Cheese is famous for its odor — what is the strongest smelling cheese you’ve had?
The strongest? It was a cheese called “Grayson” and it’s from Virginia, a dairy called Meadow Creek Dairy.
Final question: What is the best-kept secret in Nashville?
There is a place that just opened up called Bastion. The Chef is Josh Habiger — he is super creative, super talented, and he makes incredible food. It’s in the Wedgewood-Houston area. Small, around 20 seats, and a bunch them are set around the kitchen, so you can see what the staff are doing. They talk to you about the dishes they are preparing. It’s wonderful.
5th and Taylor
Salt and Vine
The Green Dragon (Murfreesboro)
Is there a Nashville business you think we should check out? Let us know if the comments below!