103 Main St., Longmont
For many families around the world real, fresh cheese is a staple food. With its rich, creamy textures and the assortment of complex flavors and aromas of whole, real cheese, it’s hard to resist.
Lyman White and his wife, Linda White, noticed people’s love for real cheese nearly 40 years ago, and they decided to take advantage of it by establishing Cheese Importers, a family-owned business, based in Longmont, Colorado. Today, Lyman White’s children, Samm White and Clara White, have taken over the family business as co-Owners.
“Cheese Importers is like part of our family,” Samm White said. “Our name is all over it. It just screams what we are about. Now we’re kind of at the forefront of those quality food products that are kicking off in the market right now.” It has grown from a small home-based business to include over 400 of Colorado’s quality-oriented natural grocers, co-ops and restaurants to its wholesale distribution list, and it has become a landmark for gourmet food in Longmont, as well as a tribute to this family’s years of hard work.
The company now operates out of a massive, vintage brick-building that was originally the diesel-fuel power station for the city.
It attracts visitors from all over the country and has a loyal following by many local customers offering organic specialty oils, cured meats, spices, chocolate and a huge selection of imported cheese from all over the world. Their store features the largest walk-in refrigerated cheese and cured meat market in Colorado.
Cheese Importers also carries a unique assortment of European textiles, beauty and kitchenware products. From a Stonewall Kitchen line to imported French glassware, the list goes on.
Samm’s mother, Linda White, who prods and oversees the business every now and then, also acts as a Buyer for Cheese Importers. “My mother can really shop,” Samm said. “She has a motto that if it’s wonderful, and people should have it in their home, buy it, and we’ll figure out a way to sell it and market it. We are overflowing with treasures and at times, it’s hard finding homes for all our products.”
But the family-owned business has not always been so popular. Originally, the business started in 1973 with just one employee, Lyman White. Samm said his father always believed in living a macrobiotic lifestyle, eating more natural, whole foods. “He was on the hunt for nutritious, whole food when the demand for tv dinners and processed and packaged food was on the rise,” Samm said.
Lyman had started multiple different businesses, including a wholesale organic grain co-op, but the business had little success and soon went under. Lyman then started looking for new opportunities in the food industry that would benefit his customers and reflect his macrobiotic lifestyle. “My father always believed that you should sell things that were good for people – things that wouldn’t harm them,” Samm said.
Lyman traveled to the East Coast to visit his uncle-in-law, Ben Moskowitz, who owned a large dairy called Walker Butter and Egg. During his visit with Moskowitz, Lyman found himself immersed into the underground world of dairy, and he was able to taste European cheeses like Brie and Gruyère, as well as other specialty cheeses from around the world that had not been well distributed in the United States before.
“Back then cheese was pretty dull and bland tasting,” Samm said. “These were the days when cheese was made with more oil than milk. You know, cheese was just this orange gelatinous block. This area of the food industry was just starting, really. I mean, of course, there were cheeses, but as for some of these specialty cheeses, well there wasn’t a market for it. The American palate hadn’t been introduced to it yet.”
Lyman decided to capitalize on his discovery by finding the artisanal cheeses that were being made at dairies near where he lived in Colorado. He traveled to the dairies and bought barrels full of cheese that he sold from his Longmont home. “I remember he bought extra refrigerators for our house to store all the cheese in. He would go out with a block of cheese and walk through the back door of restaurants, and my dad, being a very charismatic man, would ask and beg to speak with whoever he needed to so he could sell cheese,” Samm said. “He could usually get a chef to stop and try these cheeses, and the taste was worlds apart from what they’d been using. Good cheese is unequal to the stuff that was being used at the time. That’s how it all started, and from then on, slowly, Cheese Importers blossomed.”
Now, Samm White says he’s proud of where Cheese Importers has come from, and he’s excited about where it’s going, but really, he intends to sit back and enjoy what Cheese Importers is all about, which is bringing people the joy of cheese. “People are really receptive to what we love and want to share with them,” he said. “It’s just great being able to help people identify what brings them happiness. To allow that joy to be created is great. There’s not much better than food than happiness, and combine the two, and you don’t need anything else.”
Linda, Samm, and Clara White
103 Main St.
Longmont, CO 80501
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