We were lucky to catch up with Jodi Paige and Anthony Guitron recently and have shared our conversation below.
Jodi Paige and Anthony Guitron, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. If you had a defining moment that you feel really changed the trajectory of your career, we’d love to hear the story and details.
A defining moment and the trajectory of Virgin Cheese ~
The decision to bring Virgin Cheese to the Verde Valley (central Arizona, between Jerome and Sedona) was not an easy one. Making organic cashew cream based cheeses for 6 years solo in Las Vegas and relocating a home AND a business at the same time might seem ludicrous but it was all possible because of the partnership struck up between Jodi Paige and Anthony Guitron. The two met on the dance floor in Las Vegas and continued going out to live music and texting like teenagers before the pandemic of 2020. Fast forward to 2022 and the now best friends and business partners are cheese slinging some of the best vegan cheese in the country, sending rounds to over 30 wholesale partners and blocks to vegan cheese shops in New York and Austin.
The word of mouth around this boutique brand can be heard and felt every day as long time vegans, new crossovers to plant based eating, keto and Epicurean adventurous foodie and those lactose intolerant, choose decadent and delicious Virgin Cheese.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Why Virgin Cheese? Jodi Paige has been crafting up cuisine for many years; learning chefery by dining out in the fine establishments of the cultural corridor of 90s Seattle ~ making and taking appetizers, dips and concoctions to any get together, for any reason. As a theatrical production stage manager and producer of large-scale festivals, Jodi has always been a tough audience and now sees that being the “barometer of good taste” comes in handy while at the helm of an artisan vegan cheese company.
The name came about in an early wine and cheese moment with good friend, Angie Morelli of Customistic. Jodi was declaring that besides her one enigmatic daughter, that she had no tattoos or piercings, so, she was practically a Virgin. Without missing a beat, Angie responded, “That’s it.” Aided with fuel from the dairy industry and the synchronicity of Vs – Vegas, Vegan, Las Vegans – an artisanal vegan cheese company was launched.
When Jodi crossed over to plant based eating in 2014, she could count the number of national vegan cheese brands on one hand. Having tried them all, she felt compelled to bring a fuller flavor, all organic line to the marketplace. Word of mouth travelled from a private launch party to a sold out first farmers’ market to her first online and shipping partnerships.
A new love affair with plant based eating, coupled with a Las Vegan community on fire for creative and compassionate cuisine, all came together in March of 2014 when Virgin Cheese was first served. 150 health conscious consumers gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Las Vegas’ first animal sanctuary with a private dinner. Guests were greeted with an appetizer cheese table, with eight varieties of organic, cashew milk cheeses, which were difficult to keep on the table! Voracious appetites came through the line 3-4 times. The Wine & Cheese basket donated that evening, with big wedges of Lemon Dill, Shallot Truffle, Bleu and a Cheddar Nut Ball – went at silent auction for $400.00. Even more surreal, moving through the crowd, whispers from guests of “cheese, cheese, cheese” could be heard. At the end of the night, the crew and coordinators finally had their first tastes of Virgin Cheese, and the first Wine & Vegan Cheese Pop Up Bar took place. Forty days later Virgin Cheese premiered at Fresh52 farmers market at Tivoli Village Las Vegas, selling out of nearly 50 lbs of vegan, cashew milk based cheese. Virgin Cheese now ships to over 30 partners and has headquarters in the Verde Valley.
Beyond grateful to join forces with Anthony Guitron, the two have been keeping up with the unprecedented reception in their headquarters in the Verde Valley wine region between Jerome and Sedona, hosting Ditching Dairy Demos and turning all walks of neighbors and travellers on~ to green and lean, compassionate culinary cuisine.
Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?
Jodi Paige held down the cheese fortress solo for 6 years in Las Vegas. As the pandemic of 2020 increased interest for online groceries, the demand for quality clean ingredients and plant powered immunity boosting faire skyrocketed. Jodi and Anthony had met on the dance floor of the Sand Dollar Lounge in Las Vegas, drawn to each other’s uninhibited and creative approach to modern dancing to live jam bands. They ran around every weekend to dance and when Anthony’s hours got cut back to one day a week, it wasn’t long before the two tried wrapping and shipping the Virgin Cheese product line together.
Jodi was already planning to move to the 5 acres she had purchased below Jerome, Arizona, a historic mining town overlooking the panoramic view of the San Fransisco Peaks of Flagstaff, the Mogollon Rim and Sedona. The property beckoned with her next venture, Hopewell Mine Homestead – High Desert Hideout – tents, beds, forts & fire…. a modern day mining camp for what you’re searching for. In order to relocate the business and build the next one, she courted Guitron to join her, cementing their friendship into a business partnership, while they behaved like best friends.
The special bond between these two likely and unlikely best friends, with 35 years of age difference between them, can be found when you taste the love in their cheese. They get told every day that they are creating some of the best vegan cheese in the country – and that’s what keeps them making it.
We’d appreciate any insights you can share with us about selling a business.
Virgin Cheese has been proving the quality of the brand for 7 years. Word of mouth has travelled and new inquiries come in weekly as to where and how people can get their hands on this organic cashew cream based line of artisan cheeses. Cheese is harder to give up than meat and conscious consumers are making the connection between their food supply and their health and immunity, especially in recent trying times. 60-70% of the world population is lactose intolerant; people are just used to feeling bad!
The growth of Virgin Cheese has been in organic baby steps and time and brand awareness keeps exploding. Not making any shortcuts to higher profits or adding fillers to stretch the product out, has delivered a consistent full on flavor line of exceptional vegan cheeses.
The two partners know they won’t be able to keep up for much longer and growth into a new partnership or next level manufacturing is imminent.
- Website: http://www.virgincheese.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virgincheese
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VirginCheeseVegan
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodi-paige-molever-473ab010
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/VirginCheese
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX3pZZ9gDQM
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/virgin-cheese-clarkdale
- Other: PRESS from our new location in the Verde Valley wine region of central Arizona https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLbRxNs63mw https://www.sedonamonthly.com/2021/virgin-cheese/ https://www.verdenews.com/news/2021/feb/16/say-cheese-hold-lactose-clarkdale-shop/ https://www.newsbreak.com/arizona/clarkdale/news/2162114432233/virgin-cheese-opens-retail-shop-in-downtown-clarkdale https://vegnews.com/2021/2/vegan-cheese-shop- arizona?fbclid=IwAR2uyYW761Rn0WP9nWZSZ5JtgqKem5hnPzLOfVtwoDGSLiVOAlNIAzDkI3M https://azdailysun.com/entertainment/dining/virgin-cheese-relocates-to-clarkdale/article_f688e813-3b84-5488-abe2-0d94a125a652.html