No two boards are the same

Charcuterie business introduces people to cheese

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BANGOR, Wis. — Wendy Nelson and Brenda Smith have been colleagues and friends for over 20 years. So when the pair decided to start a side business selling charcuterie boards online, they thought it would be a hobby for them to do together. 

They came up with a name, procured insurance and started advertising. When they booked a wedding within the first two months, they thought their idea was coming to life.

That is when they discovered that they needed a license from their county to make and sell charcuterie boards.

“We hadn’t sold any yet when we found out, and we could’ve backed out at that point,” Nelson said. “But, we had already committed to doing this wedding, and we didn’t want to let them down.”

The process to become licensed started with finding a commercial kitchen space. A gas station in their small town was closed, but Nelson knew there was a kitchen inside. She contacted the building’s owner, and he allowed them to rent the space.

Once everything was up to code and they got their license from the county, their hobby became an official business. 

Nelson and Smith have been operating out of their space in Bangor since March 2022. They operate Tres Bien Charcuterie with the help of Nelson’s sister, Pam Stetzer, and Nelson’s daughter, Ashley Nelson.

The charcuterie boards revolve around cheese, with half of the board featuring a variety of flavors. The other food items — meats, nuts and vegetables — compliment the cheese.

“Without dairy, there would be no charcuterie,” Nelson said. “We wouldn’t have a business without the dairy industry and its farmers. It’s huge.”

When assembling the boards, each cheese is given its own space, so no two cheeses touch each other. A variety of slices are used to add dimension and style. Once the cheeses are assembled, meats are arranged around them. Nelson and Smith are creative with their designs, often folding salamis to look like roses. Gaps around the meats and cheeses are filled in with nuts and vegetables.

Some of the cheese varieties are common, like cheddar, Monterey Jack and mozzarella. Other varieties and flavors are less familiar and may have not been tried. Some of these include different variations of Gouda, Port du Salut and havarti.

“We don’t want to overwhelm the people who don’t know cheese, but we get to introduce people to cheeses that they would normally never try,” Nelson said.

All the products on the charcuterie boards are purchased at retail locations near Bangor. The women also try to use local creameries when possible and always try to include Wisconsin-made products.

“It’s award-winning and the best cheese ever so why not take advantage of it?” Nelson said.

Nelson and Smith have kept up their full-time jobs and also catered more than 200 events in 2023. Nelson said she draws on her background in farming when things are busy.

“My sister, Pam, and I grew up on a farm,” Nelson said. “We learned at a very early age what it takes to maintain and run a successful business. That is one of the things that has been truly instilled in us since we were small children.”

Nelson said she has always believed that farmers do not get the respect they deserve for living a demanding lifestyle. She is proud to be a farmer’s daughter and support the industry in her own way.

Nelson and Smith hope to grow the business over time and would like to eventually add a bistro to the enterprise. As they grow, they will continue to include dairy foods as a 50%-plus aspect of their product line.

While they sometimes feel as though they are outgrowing their space, they said they enjoy the community so much that they do not plan to relocate any time soon.

“Bangor has been incredible,” Nelson said. “In a small town, you can either have bickering or you can have everyone trying to help you. Bangor has really embraced us.”

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