How Ashley Grant built Green Bay’s Cheese Shop: Where cheeseheads go artisanal

FeaturedFood & Drink

Written by:

Even if you’ve never been to Green Bay, Wisconsin, a few images will come to mind easily: The Packers, decked out in green and gold, striding onto Lambeau Field while their fans, also swathed in green and gold, cheer them on while wearing big, foamy, triangular Cheesehead hats. And yet, though Wisconsin is the number one cheese-producing state in the U.S.—producing 928 million pounds in 2022 per the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)—there is only one artisanal cheese shop in Green Bay proper, Bountiful Boards Fromagerie & Charcuterie.

Taking a Risk, Launching an Insta-business

Baby Shower Grazing Table from Bountiful Boards

The initial idea for Bountiful Boards formed in the spring of 2020. Grant had been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, and, with her husband’s encouragement, decided to share her artful, colorful, teeming-with-abundance cheese and charcuterie boards on Instagram, to gauge if there might be a local consumer audience. These joyful boards celebrate the food that Grant calls “unnecessarily beautiful.”

Grant’s charcuterie boards are meticulous and precise while overflowing with soft, hard, and creamy cheeses, gently overlapping selections of cut fruit, stemmed flowers, and cured meats are sliced, layered, tiled, towered, cascading, burrowing, and winding on broad, shapely wooden platters. Sliced charcuterie is delicately shaped in bouquets and spirals and settled in rows and paths. As the holidays approached that year, Grant created a logo and a separate Instagram page for Bountiful Boards.

“After one month,” she says, “I wanted to go all in.”

In early 2021, the only other artisanal cheese shop in Green Bay, Nala’s Fromagerie, closed, as owner Alan Trick was retiring. Grant regularly sourced cheese for her custom charcuterie boards from Trick, a good friend. She recalls, “He was gracious enough to share many of his distributors, and how to best connect with people. He also shared the idea of going to conferences—he really guided me in that beginning time. So I started bringing the cheese in myself and then it was like ‘Okay, Green Bay doesn’t have a unique artisanal cheese shop anymore? That’s ridiculous. It’s Green Bay, Wisconsin, we are the land of the Cheeseheads!’”

Ashley Grant in her shop

Opening a Shop

Bountiful Boards is now situated prominently within Green Bay’s Revolution Public Market, and Grant has a staff of three. The shop specializes in pre-ordered charcuterie boards while sourcing a diverse and in-demand inventory of small-batch Wisconsin cheeses made from family producers, specialty cheeses from around the world, and handmade jams, crackers, platters, candles, cornichons, mustard, and honey.

Grant has sought perspective from friends and mentors while establishing a foothold in the local economy, and joined a small business group where members range from one-person business owners to bank executives, noting that the collegial nature of the local business community is one she was completely unaware of, until she was part of it. “Unless you’re looking for it, you’re not going to see that that community is there—but it’s so strong. It’s a pleasure to be part of.”

Three years later, Grant has trademarked the phrase “Green Bay’s Cheese Shop.” Classes and demonstrations convey the origin stories and production methods that distinguish Wisconsin’s small dairy producers and cheesemakers and articulate the dynamic nuances of cheese made from unadulterated, unprocessed core ingredients.

Spotlighting Small Wisconsin Producers

Widmers cheese photo credit Amy Beth Wright

Grant notices that, particularly since COVID, Green Bay consumers love to shop local. This complements the shop’s core mission; nothing sold has been mass produced, and all products have been investigated to assure that everything about that company, says Grant, “is positive, with a great story, and the products are made from passion and love.” Selected cheeses are made, “in the traditional old-fashioned way,” and Grant advocates that cheese is a health food for that reason.

Several small-batch Wisconsin cheeses have caught on with consumers and are consistently in demand. One is Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. “People call four months ahead asking for it. It’s a spruce-wrapped cheese, and you warm it up for 20 to 40 minutes in your oven. When you cut the top off, it’s a scoopable cheese. Once preorders end, you can’t get it.”

Blakesville Afterglow photo credit Ashley Amy Beth Wright

Another customer favorite is Afterglow, from Blakesville Creamery in Port Washington, Wisconsin. This is a washed-rind goat’s milk cheese inspired by Langres, which is traditionally made with cow’s milk and washed with annatto. Blakesville Creamery’s version is washed with New Glarus Belgian Red (an ale made with Door County cherries) and was the Best-in-Class winner at a 2023 competition. Another from Blakesville Creamery is a creamy fresh chèvre, which Grant describes as “whipped into submission” and taking well to both sweet and to savory items, with intricate notes of floral and citrus.

A fenugreek gouda made by Marieke Gouda in Thorp, Wisconsin is a younger style raw milk cheese, made by Marieke Penterman. Red Barn Family Farms is a family co-op that sources milk from seven local dairies in the Appleton, Wisconsin area. The Cupola gouda is aged for three years at Door Artisan Cheese Company in Door County, and, says Grant, “is absolutely beautiful, as it melts like caramel but finishes with a taste of toasted pineapple.”

Another favorite is a four-year aged Cheddar as well as a mozzarella string cheese made by Union Star Cheese in Fremont, Wisconsin. A few other Wisconsin producers Grant sources from include Kickaas Cheese, which is based in Green Bay, Deer Creek Cheese in Sheboygan, Widmer’s in Theresa, Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee, Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle, northwest of Madison, Nasonville Dairy, and Door Country Creamery.

Faustos Bakery bread photo credit Amy Beth Wright

Spotlighting small, family-owned companies goes beyond cheese, to its accompaniments and pairings. A tip from one of Grant’s distributors for Italian cheese led her to Fausto’s Bakery, a small Italian deli in Elk Grove Village, a Chicago suburb; Grant sources breadsticks with fennel and black pepper and sea salt flatbreads (called mother-in-law tongues), which are handmade and hand-rolled. “They are delivered once every three weeks, and gone within a week and a half,” says Grant. Underground Meats is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and Grant carries the company’s Wisco Old Fashioned Salami, which has flavors of cherry and citrus peel. Luscious, candied pecans are sourced from another Madison-based company, Fortune Favors.

Continuing to Build: Looking to the Future

Recently, Grant purchased land with the intention of building a stand-alone cheese shop and a companion event space that has a view of the Packers “G” at Lambeau Field. A cheese and wine shop with a café component is in the future, “where people can have simple, beautiful cheese platters with beautiful baguettes and cornichons, and just come in and have a blast.”

This article originally appeared on Cheese Professor and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.