A New Chapter

Posted on April 8, 2014

In August, I will have lived in Mankato for 20 years. Just to see the number shocks me; two thirds of my adult life, give-or-take.

The best stuff happened here. My daughters were born and raised, I started a business that flourished for almost a decade, and I’ve made a number of life-long friends.

The worst stuff happened here. Said business cratered, my marriage ended, and I suffered through years of self-doubt and depression.

Then, about six years ago, something miraculous occurred: after painting myself into a corner employment-wise, I came to the realization that the only sensible option was to start a new business. Equal parts inspiration and desperation factored into the genesis of Alemar Cheese Company.

The first vat of cheese was made on April 22nd, 2009. it didn’t turn out, and many subsequent batches were flawed. I kept on, because there was no other option as far as my anxious, neurotic mind could see.

In July of that year, after a couple rounds of sub-par batches, the eureka moment happened: Bent River, though far from perfect, started to taste pretty good. Within a few weeks, we had our first retail accounts, and with persistence (hardly unwavering), we found a bit of footing. Alemar is still a tiny company, but we have been on a healthy trajectory for some time now. It is hard to quantify what this did for me, but life altering is no overstatement.

When my marriage ended, Alex was ten and Mari eight. They are now 19 and 17. Mari will be leaving for college in the fall.

For a long time, I’ve operated on the premise that once the girls were up and out, so was I. I’m from Northern California, and though Minnesota has been home for a very long time, I’ve had an unwavering notion that I ultimately should be back in the place I started.

To be clear: Alemar Cheese will remain in Mankato, hopefully for a very, very long time. I have a vision to start a new cheese venture out West, with the intention of being back in Minnesota often. The girls will both be in school in the Twin Cities, and I want to come back to Alemar regularly. If I’m able to pull this off, I’ll have my own small version of the best of both worlds.

This post is the quintessence of bittersweet. I know in my bones that my desires are true, but I am also struggling, distancing myself from something that has re-instilled a vocational sense of purpose and joy in my life. It’s frightening, but perhaps that’s a good thing. I certainly feel alive.

So, the next chapter of my life is about to unfold. I dream of it being the best yet, and hope you’ll root for me along the way.

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