When Kim Marsh Kaiser was a child, her grandmother, Margaret Marsh, made her cheese wafers as a snack. She never dreamed then that this snack recipe would later become her livelihood.
Last week the entire country discovered Kim's Cheese Straws when they were featured by Linda Jerkins in her "Holiday Gift Guide: 10 suggestions for food lovers" that was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The cheese straws were number three on the list!
"I honestly had no idea who Linda Jerkins was until my Atlanta retailers started preordering huge quantities of my cheese straws in advance of the story, Kaiser said. "Thanks to her amazing story, I had my best day of sales ever and the residual orders remain strong."
Kim's "overnight" success has been quite a journey.
"I love to cook and would spend hours upon hours cooking with my grandmother," she said. "Her generation never wrote down a recipe or measured any ingredients. She was very patient with me as I worked alongside of her to journal the recipes and determine measurements of ingredients."
Kim grew up in her family business, the local Dairy Queen, which was opened by her grandparents Margaret and Husmith Marsh and now operated by her parents Jeanne Anne and Hugh Smith Marsh.
She graduated from Georgia Southern with an accounting degree and worked in the insurance industry for several years before accepting a teaching position at Statesboro High. She taught at SHS for 13 years before making her hobby of cooking her career two years ago.
"Debra Hatten, owner of the Grapevine at H's asked me if I would consider selling my cheese straws in her store," she said. "She told me that none of the brands she carried were as good as mine. That was my first retail location. The sales there continue to be very strong. This gave me the encouragement to explore other opportunities."
Kaiser entered the Southern Women's Show in Savannah and the Southern Christmas show in Charlotte in 2014. Her sales at both of these shows convinced her that she had a product that was popular enough that she could do this full time.
Kim produces her cheese straws in four flavors: Original Cheddar, Parmesan (her favorite), Tomato Basil Cheddar and Hot Habanero Cheddar. In addition to the Grapevine at H's, she also sells them locally at Bellies, Babies and Ballerinas and Anderson's General Store. You can also purchase them through her website at www.kimscheesestraws.com
Cheese straws are a way of life in the south. No wedding reception, potluck dinner, bridal or baby shower is complete without a batch of this delicious snack. They are not easy to make and actually have to be pressed with a cookie press and cut into strips. These are very common here, but not so much for our northern friends.
"It is hard for me to imagine a single person who has never tasted a cheese straw," Kaiser said. "The biggest surprise is their instant popularity with a first timer. We ship them all over the country and the response from the first timer's is always delightful."
In addition to the shows and retailers, Kim has become a popular addition at the Atlanta Mart, which is a show case to retailers throughout the world. It was at a show at the Mart that Linda Jerkins first discovered her product.
Kaiser has perfected her product; she has developed a great business plan and has throttled her growth to match her goals of spending more time with her family.
She is a delightful ball of energy who in addition to being a wonderful cook is a pretty savvy marketer and business woman. Kim and her products encapsulate everything that is great about our community and living in the south. I agree with the Atlanta newspaper writer, Kim's Cheese Straws will make great Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers for everyone on your list.
Please email DeWayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.