The Cheese Board celebrates 35 years in business
In 1981, Debbie Branby took her love for wine and cheese and opened The Cheese Board and Wine Seller. Thirty-five years later, the business, now known as The Cheese Board American Bistro and Catering Company, has become a staple on California Avenue and in the Reno community.
The Cheese Board is a popular lunch eatery and a full-service catering company. The establishment is celebrating its 35th anniversary in business this June.
Branby opened The Cheese Board and Wine Seller in 1981 in a 200-square-foot shop at Arlington Gardens, a shopping center that was owned by the Junior League of Reno. She had learned about gourmet cheese from a course she took in San Francisco and by working at a cheese and wine shop in Stockton, Calif. before starting her own business in Reno. It was one of the first businesses in the area to offer specialty foods.
After four and half years in her original location, it became apparent to Branby that she needed to move the business for it to succeed.
“It just wasn’t doing what I needed it to do financially,” Branby said.
Branby’s friend, Donna Antraccoli, owned an art gallery at the time called Hermitage Gallery and was also looking for a new location for her business. They decided to team up and look for a space where they could make half of the building into an art gallery and the other half into The Cheese Board. In 1984, Antraccoli and Branby moved to The Cheese Board’s current location at 247 California Ave.
Branby added a small commercial kitchen to the building and the specialty food shop was separated from the art gallery by only a wine rack.
“It was really pretty unique,” Branby said. “There weren’t a lot of merchants (on California Avenue) at the time.”
In 1991 the Hermitage Gallery moved to another location and The Cheese Board expanded into the other half of the space.
Over the years, her business has had to evolve as more grocery stores began selling specialty items. Her customers would ask Branby how to serve and prepare the specialty food she sold. This planted the seed to expand her business into a catering company.
She joined the National Caterers Association, which later turned into the International Caterers Association, to learn more about catering, presentation and running a business. The association provided her access to other caterers and business owners throughout the country.
“I learned so much from other people around the country and in Canada,” Branby said. “And the friendships I have made are incredible.”
Today, The Cheese Board caters a wide array of events from weddings to corporate lunches around northern Nevada. They also have catered events in the Bay Area and as far as Cedarville, Calif.
“We will go where people ask us to go,” Branby said.
The business employs around 12 people and an on-call service team. According to Branby, one of the keys to their success is that they stand behind their product.
“We believe in the product we produce, whether that product is just one sandwich or a wedding,” she said.
Branby said that the recession was hard on the business and they had to downsize during that time. It took awhile to recover but she is now optimistic about the northern Nevada economy.
As the business has grown and evolved for more than three decades, some of their customers Branby has served since the start.
“We have been a part of people’s lives for 35 years and it has been an honor,” Branby said.
To commemorate its anniversary, The Cheese Board is featuring a daily memory from the business in a campaign called 35 Years, 35 Memories. Each day, Branby posts a story or memory from her, their customers, her family and employees on Facebook and their blog.
Branby explained that in the food industry she always has to be thinking ahead and doesn’t often take the time to think about how far her business has come.
“It has really brought back a lot of memories for me,” she said.
The Cheese Board will hold an anniversary celebration from 5 to 8 p.m., Thursday, June 23 at the bistro.
“It is our way to say thank you to our old customers, our current customers and our future customers,” Branby said.
To see the 35 Years, 35 Memories posts, visit http://cheeseboardcatering.com/wordpress/.
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