(The Triangle Trend) — Cheese and charcuterie boards lie at the intersection of food and art. Courtney Bowman, owner of Raleigh Cheesy in Apex, is intimately familiar with this artisanal pursuit. As proprietor of this popular, niche business in southwestern Wake County, Bowman has turned her greatest passion into a successful enterprise.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Bowman graduated from Baylor University in Texas in 2008. She eventually left Texas for North Carolina to pursue a career in education, landing a teaching job at a Raleigh middle school where she thought her core job was, of course, teaching. She soon became known as their event coordinator. When she wore her event coordinator hat at the school, she would sometimes contribute one of her cheese boards. People noticed.
Bowman said the defining moment in her transition from teacher to cheeseboard entrepreneur was the July 2019 birthday party she hosted for her daughter. The cheese boards she put out for her guests that day were an enormous hit and the praise and overwhelmingly positive feedback she received compelled her next move. By October 2019, she had established her online business. Orders followed and the word spread through the community. Raleigh Cheesy was born.
The continued word of mouth by satisfied customers along with a strong and effective social media presence kept the momentum going. Bowman noted that Raleigh Cheesy has over 20,000 followers on Instagram and around 2,000 on Facebook. Raleigh Cheesy was now an established go-to resource for all things charcuterie/cheese boards and the modest output of October 2019 soon multiplied exponentially. The pandemic didn’t seem to slow things down as orders would come in from out-of-town or socially distanced family members wanting to connect with loved ones via these custom cheese boards. Food is love.
Raleigh Cheesy is capable of creating a cheese board for four or a wedding grazing table for 400. Bowman noted how cheese boards are great ice breakers, conversation starters and make great hostess gifts. They can be vegetarian or not. Your choice. Though some of the foods used in the creation of the cheese boards are locally sourced, Bowman shared that to ensure they are aligned with each customer’s needs/wants, they work with suppliers from all over the world. In other words, they don’t want to restrict what they can put in a cheese board to what they can purchase locally. And, by keeping the supply chain open and expansive, variety is increased and costs kept reasonable.
The business blossomed, and for the better part of a year, Raleigh Cheesy existed as an online-only entity. During this time, Bowman balanced her teaching job with the growing demands of her business. But, in May 2020, with the business thriving, she left her teaching job to devote all of her time and energy to Raleigh Cheesy. As demand increased and orders soared, Bowman started to look for a location (that wasn’t her kitchen). A July 2020 Kickstarter campaign fully funded her pursuit of a brick-and-mortar location. In October 2020, the search led them to a vacant storefront in an office complex off of Olive Chapel Road in Apex. In February 2021, Raleigh Cheesy opened its doors to the public. So, while the vast majority of their orders continue to arrive via the web, you can now visit the store and order cheese boards and/or shop for their cool, locally sourced food and accessories like salsa, honey, baked goods, biscuits, crackers, wooden cheese boards, cured meats, etc. Bowman expects Raleigh Cheesy to eventually garner a wine and beer license which would allow clients to grab a cheese board, some wine, and a friend, and sit at one of their café tables right outside.
Bowman noted that there are 25-30 cheese board/charcuterie businesses in the area now. With growing competition, Raleigh Cheesy will continue to find ways to stand out from the rest. When you’re as passionate and talented as Courtney Bowman, standing out shouldn’t be a problem.