How a bored Minnesotan turned into a Wisconsin cheese head.
Kelsey Heimerl was once a leasing agent in Woodbury and frequently hosted wine tasting events for residents living in the community where she worked. She’d invite a wine expert from Haskell’s, and she would assemble a cheese board as a complimentary snack for guests. Little did she know that being put in charge of these events would eventually lead to her own business selling her mouth-watering charcuterie boards. Here’s how it all came together …
Heimerl was returning with friends from a weekend away in Duluth, Minn. She’d already been regularly creating cheese boards for her work-related events and mentioned during the car ride home that she was in search of a particular cheese for an upcoming event. Off the cuff, her friend suggested her charcuterie board making could be a business. Her other friend agreed, saying the proposed business should have a name that’s cool and catchy. The trio spent the remainder of the drive brainstorming names for Heimerl’s hypothetical business venture. “We were bored and having fun,” says Heimerl.
The naming exercise revealed that she wanted the word “board” in the name so people would know what it was. “And, I also love up north and anything related to the Northwoods … I love that cozy vibe,” she says. With the help of friends, Heimerl settled on The Board Loon … and her business was hatched … well, almost.
“I started with a name,” Heimerl says. “But then, I started to check into what I needed to do to be legal. That took forever. States have different laws … it turned into a whole year of research.” Heimerl and her fiancé were planning a move to Hudson, Wis. After the move, she contacted the county health department to proceed with the necessary steps to get established. Now, The Board Loon was ready to take flight.
Heimerl attributes the inspiration behind her creative and delectable boards to a good vibe and flow, often motivated by whatever’s playing on her music playlist … like Frank Sinatra. In a perfect world, she would pour a glass of wine and casually create a board. She likes to take her time, but the popularity of the business means an occasional time crunch. “Some days I’m feeling more creative than others,” says Heimerl who adds that she often tries to work within a color scheme or to incorporate certain products. She says, “I really pride myself on sourcing local, like honey and Wisconsin cheese, including items most people don’t necessarily go out and find themselves.”
She shops locally at places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Kowalski’s Markets and the County Market in Hudson. “I do get some vendor products sent directly to me to sample,” Heimerl says. If she likes those products, she can buy direct. “I once bought a whole wheel [of cheese] from Deer Creek Cheese [in Sheboygan, Wis.],” says Heimerl. “It’s fun to buy direct and try stuff out.” When we asked about the most unusual item she’s tried on her boards, Heimerl says, “Guava paste! I’d never had it before. It was sent to me to try. It looks like a little cube of cheese and it’s good paired with white cheddar.” She serves it on skewers.
Heimerl has learned a lot about building charcuterie boards from other creators she’s met online. There is a whole entrepreneurial category online known as graze businesses. Of her group, she says, “We call ourselves the ‘cheese chicks’” and the women connect from as far as California and New York. They discuss things that pair well together as well as how to cut, fold and shape foods to look appealing on the board. A lot of the tips and tricks she’s learned from these connections are offered by Heimerl in her board making workshops. “People who take my workshops get the best tips from my over five years of effort,” says Heimerl.
A signature item Heimerl often incorporates into her boards are fruit stars. She’s perfected how to cut them and teaches her technique in her workshop. She says, “Once you learn, you’ll be cutting all of your fruit this way because it looks so cool.”
COVID-19 has caused Heimerl to get even more creative with serving tricks like using more skewers and adding in snacks served in cups and cones. “An Instagram influencer labeled them corona cones. I didn’t want to call them that,” says Heimerl, “but they are individual and fun.” COVID-19 has also increased The Board Loon’s orders for Heimerl’s picnic boxes, which she says can make wonderful consumable gifts for housewarmings, birthdays, bridal showers and holiday get-togethers.
To learn more about workshops or to order, visit theboardloon.com.