Made in Georgia: Making cheese is a ‘labor of love’ for this business owner

Big Bloomy is one of the goat cheeses produced by CalyRoad at Rock House Creamery. Courtesy of CalyRoad

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Big Bloomy is one of the goat cheeses produced by CalyRoad at Rock House Creamery. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Cheese making is a science as well as an art, and it helps if the cheesemaker comes to it with a passion for the product. It also is a business — a way to turn fluid milk into a product that has more of a shelf life.

Robin Schick opened CalyRoad Creamery in 2008, making artisan goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses. From her creamery in Sandy Springs, she produced award-winning cheeses, such as Camembert-style WayPoint; Bit O’Blue, which won a medal at the World Championship Cheese Contest; and a range of chevres and Mediterranean-style feta.

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Robin Schick opened CalyRoad Creamery in 2008, making artisan goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Robin Schick opened CalyRoad Creamery in 2008, making artisan goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
Robin Schick opened CalyRoad Creamery in 2008, making artisan goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Schick’s choice of cheeses to make came with a history. Her family had been friends with a French family for many years, and when the friends would come visit, they would bring French chocolate, perfume and cheeses. “It was our introduction to the world of fine cheeses,” she said. “And, when we started the creamery, I knew I wanted to make a Camembert-style cheese.”

A love of Humboldt Fog from California’s Cypress Grove Creamery, with its inclusion of edible ash, gave her the idea to make Little Stone Mountain, lightly dusted with vegetable ash. Then, there was Red Top Mountain, dusted with smoked paprika, and Black Rock, crusted with coarsely ground black pepper and named for Black Rock Mountain State Park.

Meanwhile, in 2016, Keith Kelly and his family bought a working dairy in Newborn, one that had been operated by the Johnston family since the 1940s. They named it Rock House Farm, and initially concentrated on developing a market for their fluid milk, producing creamline whole milk (pasteurized, but not homogenized, so a cream layer rises to the top), buttermilk and award-winning chocolate milk.

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A cheeseboard can be made for individual servings, like this one featuring wedges of Concord tomme and fresh goat’s cheese. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

A cheeseboard can be made for individual servings, like this one featuring wedges of Concord tomme and fresh goat’s cheese. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
A cheeseboard can be made for individual servings, like this one featuring wedges of Concord tomme and fresh goat’s cheese. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Then, they opened Rock House Creamery, to produce fresh and aged cheeses, using the milk from their large herds of cows. They brought in a cheesemaker, who developed recipes for Alpine and Dutch-style cheeses — such as Nanny Moon’s gouda and Concord tomme — with names paying homage to family history and the community around the farm. They produced fresh cheeses, too, including curds and Odessa, a tangy cheese perfect for spreading on toast.

Schick and Kelly met in 2018 at the University of Georgia Flavor of Georgia competition, when she was a finalist with Black Rock and he was there with his chocolate milk. “We liked each other immediately,” Schick said, and soon she was purchasing milk from Rock House Farm.

But, after almost a decade of cheese making, Schick was ready for a change. It seemed there might be an opportunity for a merging of interests.

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This cheese board includes two cow’s milk cheeses — Concord tomme and WayPoint — along with a crottin of fresh pear and cardamom chevre. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

This cheese board includes two cow’s milk cheeses — Concord tomme and WayPoint — along with a crottin of fresh pear and cardamom chevre. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
This cheese board includes two cow’s milk cheeses — Concord tomme and WayPoint — along with a crottin of fresh pear and cardamom chevre. Courtesy of CalyRoad

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“I realized there was a lot of synergy between what the two of us were doing,” Schick said, “and I approached Keith with the idea that I could bring my cheese-making expertise, along with my equipment and my years of experience in marketing our cheeses, if he wanted to expand Rock House Creamery. It wasn’t long before we shook on the deal.”

That was January, 2020, but it wasn’t long before COVID-19 brought progress on moving the equipment and building a new cheese-making plant in Newborn to a halt. Slowly, they were able to get things underway, hire a new cheesemaker, and start up production again.

They now are producing cheeses sold under both the Rock House Creamery brand and the CalyRoad at Rock House Creamery brand, each using recipes created when the businesses were separate.

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“For both Keith and me, this is a labor of love,” Schick said. “I think the reason we connected so strongly is that we both want to do things the right way, and we are both committed to keeping the process local. And, we both appreciate the effort it takes to keep small businesses going.”

The cheeses are sold at Farmview Market in Madison, another Kelly family enterprise that includes a cafe and market. They also can be purchased at farmviewmarket.com.

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