Co-Owner, Birdie's Pimento Cheese
A Southern Tradition
Robin R. Ashworth
When South Hill started a Revitalization Committee to focus on improving our downtown district in 2000, I was an early adopter. Within a year, my husband, Glenn, joined and eventually served as chairman. We were exposed to the idea of farmers markets as a way to enhance the community. In 2005, South Hill opened its farmers market, and after sampling my pimento cheese, a friend who was selling her homemade bread there suggested that I should sell it at the market as well. I laughed at her and said, “I’m not into all that.” All that changed in early 2014. Glenn wanted to try the vendor’s experience at South Hill. He planted about 24 cabbages in our little garden. As the cabbages started to grow, like good little cabbages do, our hound dog, Day-z, would nip the tender heads right off. Glenn was beside himself. Every afternoon, there was another dead cabbage in the driveway. I suggested I could make pimento cheese.
My friend, Scott, was running The Horseshoe Restaurant and offered his kitchen as a space that was health department approved, helping me to locate ingredients at the best prices. We secured a permit through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and did our own labeling through our printing company. We decided to move our kitchen to the South Hill Masonic Lodge to increase our production capabilities.
In July 2014, we made our market debut and sold out of the 30 eight-ounce tubs. It was exhilarating, because I’m a salesman at heart. That summer, we continued to vend on Saturdays. A fellow vendor, Ann Wright, encouraged us to go to the Farmers Market at Saint Stephen’s. We were accepted, and Birdie’s Pimento Cheese was well-received. Glenn and I decided to sell our printing business and create something more out of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese. I love building this brand, and I can hardly believe that I enjoy getting up at five in the morning on Saturdays to drive an hour and a half for the farmers market in Richmond.
Familiar and exotic at the same time, Birdie’s Pimento Cheese is wildly curious about this Southern tradition. We’re unique in that we have five distinct flavors: Classic, Jalapeño, Garlic Parmesan, Cream Cheese & Black Pepper, and Olive. The brand is an extension of myself; I’m a Southern girl who is energetic and proud of the unique flavor and texture of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese. When I meet with vendors or customers, I want those qualities to come across in both my cheese and my business.