In the next week, Gouda cheese from Hawthorne will land on the shelves of 245 Publix stores across Florida, including the store at 4115 NW 16th Blvd. in Gainesville.
Hawthorne Creek Creamery produced its first artisan cheese in January 2020 and just sent a batch of 110 wheels to Publix on Friday.
And while the cheese is new, the family behind Hawthorne Creek Creamery has a history with dairy.
Born and raised on a dairy farm in Hawthorne, Kevin Lussier has been in the industry his whole life. After returning home from college, he and his wife began helping his parents on the farm.
Lussier began thinking about diversifying the farm's offerings, and before long, the company bought a cheese manufacturing operation already in Hawthorne.
“We knew, especially when COVID happened, that we would have to diversify that end as well,” Lussier said.
The creamery sent most of its product to hotels near Orlando or cruise companies, all of which shut down or downsized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having just opened the doors in January 2020, it's been a struggle to get going,” Lussier said.
The creamery reached out to Publix in August of 2020; after a year, cheese will finally hit the shelves.
Lussier said the deal with Publix is exciting, but the future remains uncertain, explaining that additional orders would depend on in-store demand for the company’s cheese. However, the creamery is also partnering on a more local level.
Hawthorne Creek Creamery supplies Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille with Havarti cheese for the house salad and the Truffle Short Ribs Crostini appetizer features its Tomme variety.
“We reached out to them and let them know we were right there in their backyard,” Lussier said.
Now, Spurrier’s flavors a variety of dishes with the company’s artisan cheese, and other Gainesville and Ocala businesses also serve the product.
The creamery produces four different cheeses―Gouda, Tomme, Swiss and Havarti―and can produce around 50 wheels of cheese a week, with wheels weighing either 9.5 pounds for the large to 4.5 pounds for the small.
The creamery wants to diversify its product line and continue partnering with area businesses since the cheese is made in Alachua County.
“One of the best things we have going for us, as far as a marketing standpoint, is local,” Lussier said.
Overall, he said the journey so far, expanding from dairy farm to artisan cheese producers, has been an exciting adventure.