Kathleen Cotter, owner of The Bloomy Rind, a southern artisanal chesse shop, makes a great first impression. It’s as if she’s got a little bird inside of her reminding her to “say cheese” as she greets you with her big, radiant smile. But the truth is, Kathleen’s got guts. Making the decision to start a niche business is not an easy one. With a commitment to learn the trade and start out slowly, Kathleen’s Bloomy Rind is going gangbusters. She’s received accolades from Garden & Gun magazine and recently made the decision to share space with the guys at Porter Road Butcher. Together, they are committed to bringing the freshest and most responsibly produced food to Nashville. We can’t say enough about Kathleen’s savvy when it comes to recommending the perfect cheese to pair with your favorite wine or foods.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the ‘burbs of Atlanta.
What brought you to Nashville?
I came to Nashville for school and never left. I graduated from Vanderbilt, and the funny thing is that early on, I was always the one talking about what Nashville was missing. Mind you, this was quite a few (read: many) years ago. Of my college pals, most moved away, and I stayed. What can I say is, Nashville grew (culturally, gastronomically, etc.) and, in the process, grew on me. Love it here!
Can you share with our readers a valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
I have a print hanging at home that reads, “Sometimes the only available transportation is a leap of faith.” I’m not sure that’s advice so much as a mantra. Being more the cautious and indecisive type, it’s a friendly reminder that at some point, I just have to make a move and trust that things will work out. I tend to gather information and process things for a while, but I can get stuck in that place of preparation. So I sometimes need a little push.
Many of our readers will want to know how you wound up in the artisanal cheese business?
Who doesn’t love cheese? Even people who can’t or choose not to eat it look at it with a gleam in their eyes! Granted, I wasn’t always as knowledgeable or choosy about cheese as I am now. I’ve had my share of Rotel dip and Nacho Cheese Doritos through the years – and still enjoy that white cheese dip at Mexican restaurants.
Several years back, I was working in Human Resources. I liked it, but probably deep down knew it wasn’t quite the right path for me. After losing my job unexpectedly, I decided to take a little sabbatical and figure out what I really wanted to be doing. I knew right away, I wanted to 1) work with food, 2) support sustainable food systems, and 3) never write another resume.
I learned of the tremendous growth in the number of American artisan cheese makers, and the more I learned about the movement and about individual producers, the more excited I got. It didn’t seem like there was much awareness in Nasvhille about domestic artisan cheese, nor was there much available expect for a few local producers (Bonnie Blue, Kenny’s and Sweetwater Valley at the time). Other cities have these amazing cheese shops that overwhelm you with cases full of beautiful cheese – but we didn’t have that. It clicked that Nashville was ready, and I could perhaps be the gal to make it happen.
As I said previously, I tend to be the cautious type, and I knew my learning curve would be steep, so I have baby-stepped over the past few years towards that vision of a fabulous cheese shop in Nashville. I met James and Chris (they own Porter Road Butcher) last year, and we started chatting about their plans. I pitched the idea about having The Bloomy Rind in their shop, and thankfully, they said yes. We share the same ideology about food and feel like it’s a complimentary relationship, so our customers can buy a wider variety of delicious and sustainably produced goods in one place.
I’m always thinking about and working on the next steps, so stay tuned. And buy more good cheese.
Can you share 5 must-have cheeses to take us into the fall season ?
- Rush Creek Reserve (Uplands Cheese, a rich fall/winter cheese)
- Greutli (Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Alpine-style cheese)
- Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (a classic any time of year and amazing in mac n’ cheese)
- Rogue River Blue (ridiculously good blue that’s in very limited supply each year)
- Beehive Cheese Co.’s Seahive (melts incredibly well for the perfect grilled cheese)
As a business owner in East Nashville, what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about East Nashville?
That it’s really far away. Nashville has this huge East-West thing happening that’s kind of amusing. People who visit or move here from larger cities get a kick out the idea that we think Hillsboro Village to 5 Points (or vice versa) is a haul.
If you were doing a late summer cocktail party, can you share with our readers what you would serve?
People who know me will chuckle at the idea of me entertaining. I pretty much work all the time lately and haven’t made a lot of time for socializing. But we’ll suspend reality for a moment and imagine it… I love brunch, so I would have a Sunday brunch party. Mimosas with sparkling wine from Woodland Wine Merchant. I have some friends who make a mean Bloody Mary, so that would be covered. Food might be breakfast casserole (with amazing cheese, of course), BLT bites (with late summer tomatoes and Porter Road bacon), and homemade waffles (with Hatcher Farms Dairy butter and Vermont maple syrup). Sweet + savory = perfection.
What are some of your favorite places to hang out in East Nashville?
For mobile office time, Barista Parlor or Ugly Mugs. For a cocktail, 308 or Holland House. For lunch, Mitchell’s Deli or Mas Tacos.
Do you have something you are interested in purchasing this fall?
I would like a few vintage clothing items. I love when people wear them, but I find find vintage clothes shopping a little overwhelming. My friend, Trisha Brantley, who owns the Hip Zipper, has been incredibly patient and helpful in filtering through all the goodies in her shop, so hopefully there will be a couple more items coming home with me soon.
What event are you looking forward to that’s coming up in Nashville?
You mean besides the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival? (Heh, a little shameless self-promotion there.) I look forward to the 12 South Winter Warmer. If you’re a beer lover, it’s not to be missed. Matt Leff, the organizer, does a fantastic job with his events.
What are 3 of your favorite things (excluding God, family and friends)?
my passport, my camera(s), anything letterpress-printed
Thanks, Kathleen! And thanks to our fabulous FACES photographer, Ashley Hylbert. To see more behind-the-scenes photos from her shoot with Kathleen, click here: www.ashleyhylbert.com.