By Sue Moore
Vicksburg, Michigan, known locally as ‘the center of the universe’ thanks to an oft used quote from the deceased Mercer Munn, now has a specialty cheese product named after it that is tasty and over the top good, says its founder Deborah Harsha.
The recipe for Vicksburg Cheddar Spread was a concoction of Deborah’s father-in-law, Deane, many years ago. It was never written down and he never measured anything, he just knew exactly how to make it for the family. In fact, we served it our wedding reception 20 years ago, Harsha exclaimed.
“I’ve always wanted to start my own business and it just occurred to me that this cheese spread would be perfect. It sure has been a learning curve, although I started in the restaurant business as a purchasing agent for Bill Knapp’s restaurant and now work for Perrigo in Allegan. I make big vats of it at the ‘Can-Do’ kitchen in Kalamazoo. It scaled up easily, I didn’t have to make many adjustments. The hardest part was the cooling process, once you heated the ingredients and hitting the window of temperature that was just right for the combination to come together.” Labeling and dealing with the Michigan Department of Agricultural Research Division was also an education for the entrepreneur.
Harsha delivers the product to outlets in Portage at Youz Guys Sausage, Beer & Skittles in Kalamazoo and during the summer to the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market where Smitty’s Sugar Shack sells it for her. Getting the marketing down was interesting she says. She had help from Western Michigan University’s marketing students and their food marketing program. She is hoping to find a local outlet and in the meantime, she brings it as a treat to the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation board meetings where she serves as a trustee and gets rave reviews each time.