The economy might still feel like it’s in a slump, but apparently no one told David Rotelle, owner of September Farm Cheese, which opened a new, bigger location in June.
Rotelle could be considered something of a perfectionist by some. But as he sees it, his family just wants to make sure they’re producing the best product and service for their customers possible.
Rotelle said he has spent a lot of time travelling and trying the best breads, meats, cheeses and other foods to make his restaurant and country market’s products excellent.
“I wanted the ‘wow factor,’” Rotelle said. “I want people to say, ‘Wow, this is a really great sandwich.’”
With many of his children expressing interest in remaining involved with the business and his eldest graduating from college two years ago, he realized the business may need to help support multiple families one day.
That, high demand for their products and limited space combined to fuel the decision to move to the new building on Route 322 in Honey Brook just west of the borough.
“We just felt that if this thing was going to be sustainable, we needed to expand,” he said. “We wanted to have a business all our children could be involved in.”
The family broke ground on the new location in September, 2012 and officially opened it June 24. The move didn’t come without some nervousness despite the shop’s success to that point.
“As a business owner, you always have that fear factor,” Rotelle said. “We were really starting in a barn, with no debt really, no overhead. So this was a big investment.
“You have to believe in what you’re doing and give people a good product, good service and treat them like family,” he said. “And just trust in the Lord.”
Rotelle said he believes the store has a bright future, but knows he has to maintain September Farm’s level of commitment to quality for its customers.
“I was telling my employees, it’s just like a little baby in your arms. You’ve got to take care of it.”
The family has been able to increase their dairy production to about double what they produced before. Since opening the new location, Rotelle said they now produce about 60,000 pounds of cheese a year.
Even so, the new location demanded more to support it, and the Rotelle family had come to love the country store concept while travelling through New England. That’s what inspired Dave to expand the restaurant into a country market.
“The cheese is the focal point of this business. The cheese is what got us here and that’s who we are,” Rotelle said. “But the reality is we wouldn’t be able to support ourselves with just that.
“I thought the country store concept was really neat and wanted somewhere the community can come and see their neighbors.”
Moving forward in 2014, customers can look forward to seeing the country market section expand while the family focuses on stocking more fresh bottled milk, cheese and meats to sell. Rotelle also plans on selling more baked goods, including soft pretzels.
“We want to fine-tune the retail store, fine-tune our products,” Rotelle said. He emphasized that they strive to carry what customers want. For example, something that he’s found customers really enjoy is the special sandwich offered every two weeks. He’s also listened to feedback about dishes to see how they can tweak recipes to improve them, such as their mac and cheese.
Customers can also look forward to an updated breakfast menu coming soon. Two weeks ago, September Farm began adding omelets and home fries to breakfast. Next, they plan to roll out pancakes, waffles and, eventually, sausage.
A lot of their breakfast customers come from local retirement communities, Rotelle explained, and those customers don’t always want breakfast sandwiches, so the store is expanding to meet their needs.
Most of all, though, he strives to produce a community and family atmosphere at a place patrons can take pride in, where products are made right at home in their backyard. After all, as Rotelle points out, the customers are what make his business a success, so it only makes sense for him to give them the best experience possible.
“Our heartbeat, without a question, is we want this to be a place people can come and really take ownership of it,” he said. “I love working here. We love what we do, and we wanted a place for local people to come and feel like it’s theirs.”