When Kevin Parker and his family traveled the country visiting specialty food shops along the way, they simply fell in love with cheese. “We discovered that there’s a whole world of cheese out there, schools that study cheese and thousands of recipes – the industry of cheese is so much more than cheddar or provolone at the deli counter,” said Parker.
That passion turned into a small family-owned hobby business in 2008. Attending farmers markets in the Bay City area introduced the Parkers to the Michigan SBDC (MI-SBDC), where they learned the basics of starting a small brick and mortar store – and artigiano, artisan cheese shoppe was born, now with a storefront in downtown Bay City.
With a vision to provide fantastic specialty foods in the area where they might not have otherwise been readily accessible, Artigiano primarily focuses on a selection of specialty cheeses and charcuterie imported mostly from Europe, plus some domestic artisan and farmstead cheesemaker offerings. Boutique wine, craft beer, olive oil and balsamic vinegars and kitchen equipment and knives round out the mix – not to mention a seasonal gelato bar.
When the COVID shutdowns started in 2020, however, Parker reconnected with the MI-SBDC’s Chris Curtis to navigate the new realities of finding assistance, altering the business model, developing new strategies and getting referrals to the right organizations for capital funding.
Post-pandemic, artigiano is expanding into a broader in-store assortment, catering for four to 50, and e-commerce. In Parker’s words: “We really appreciate all that the MI-SBDC has done for us. Like a lot of other companies I’m not sure that we’d still be here without their help, and they have been instrumental in growing our business.”
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