Life in Silicon Valley is not all about silicon chips. Sunnyvale entrepreneur Dacia Hsueh makes time for cheese, too. By day, Hsueh consults to data centers on energy issues. But in her off-hours she’s delivering stinky wedges to members of the Silicon Valley Cheese Club, a buying group she launched last year.
“I started it as a way to educate myself and create access to harder-to-find cheeses,” Hsueh said about the rapidly growing club. Local retailers didn’t carry many of the cheeses Hsueh was reading about, so she approached a distributor about buying whole wheels direct.
By consolidating orders from the club’s 100-plus members, Hsueh can meet the distributor’s minimum and get wholesale pricing. She receives the wheels, cuts and wraps the orders, and then personally delivers them—a task she views as an opportunity to visit friends.
Hsueh typically holds two or three “buying events” a month, with the offer posted on the club website and closed when she has enough takers. One early selection was two wheels of 14-month-old El Trigal Manchego. Brillat-Savarin was a huge hit, as were Central Coast Creamery’s Big Rock Blue (pictured below) and Rolf Beeler’s Gruyère and Hoch Ybrig. She lists most cheeses by the half-pound “so people don’t get scared off.” Hsueh outdid herself at holiday time, offering a multi-cheese platter with quince paste and crackers.
Obviously an endeavor like this depends on volunteers providing the services that distributors and retailers typically do. But for people who love fine cheese and don’t live near a good merchant, a buying club might be one solution.
Inspired to start a cheese club? Some tips from Hsueh:
Do as the pros do. Buy a Handee cheese cutter to make clean cuts easily.
Find a specialty-cheese distributor that offers cheeses not available at grocery stores.
Cheese weights vary, which can make even splitting difficult. Make this clear upfront. Stores sell by weight; SVCC tries to split evenly.
Use free online tools such as electronic invitations and order tracking to manage logistics.
Ask members to become “depots” and help distribute.
Mailing adds costs. Don't bother. Keep membership local.
Tasting parties keep members excited and provide an opportunity to explore pairings with beer and wine.
Time to Tee Up
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