In six years, Tara Pearson has grown her cheese company from a small business run out of her home to a national brand sold across the country.
The Rutland resident opened the Best of Wisconsin Cheese Shop, a 21,000 square foot facility, at 4645 Hwy. 138 in June.
The company sells packaged Wisconsin goods in 6,000 stores in the United States. The cheese, cheese snack sticks, cheese curds and meat snacks can be found around the nation, and the Wisconsin’s Best brand is in partnership with the three largest distribution companies.
The storefront has coolers and shelves stuffed with sausage, cheese, cheese curds, wine, knicknacks, salsas, pickled items and holiday baskets. In the back there is storage, packaging and offices.
Pearson, president of the company and a single mother of three, started Best of Wisconsin Cheese Shop out of her home in 2013 because she saw a growing appetite for quality cheese and sausage.
Pearson find the best cheese from 10 producers across the state then buys and packages it. The quality of Wisconsin cheese leads to high demand, Pearson said, noting the state is the only one in the nation requiring a license to make cheese.
She said Wisconsin’s dairy competitors, like California, don’t make a comparable product.
“We’re a little spoiled,” Pearson said. “We don’t understand it because we’re from Wisconsin, how well known and how much people like Wisconsin cheese, but it’s demanded all over the country and we’re known for our quality.”
Coming from a business background, Pearson also noticed a trend in the food industry, away from unhealthy snacks like chips and chocolate bars. She said consumers are going to gas stations and convenience stores looking for healthier, less processed snacks like cheese.
“At grab and go across the country parents are walking in … and getting stuff to eat but they’re grabbing something that’s good for them,” she said.
Best of Wisconsin Cheese Shop offers a variety of flavors including bloody Mary; jalapeno, cheddar and bacon; jalapeno garlic dill and white sharp cheddar.
Pearson said her quick growing success is also in part to her hardworking employees.
“There’s days when your job description isn’t what you’re doing, and they get it because it’s a growing company,” she said.
Those employees include her sisters. And although other members of her family aren’t on the payroll, they play a large role in support and bragging.
Pearson, who is at the shop seven days a week, said one part of her job is quality control, tasting different cheese and sausage samples all the time.
“You can’t go across the country and sustain and grow your business unless it’s a great product,” she said.