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Nestled along the winding back roads of Sugarcreek is a small cheese house with a broad history of fine cheese making. "It is the smallest in the area," said Nancy Schindler, owner of Broad Run Cheese House. But that does not stop it from having a large, far and wide reputation.
Some of Nancy's biggest fans just happened to be stopping by for a wine tasting and cheese break as I met with Nancy to learn more about her cheese house.
"We have been coming here for years and it is always our first stop," said Tony Tarantino who travels with his girlfriend Madonna Knaus. "We could just sit here for hours and chit-chat," said Tarantino.
The Broad Run Cheese House was established in 1933 by a group of local dairy farmers trying to get more money for their milk. Their efforts surpassed their expectations and the small cheese factory began its journey into becoming an award winning cheese factory.
Nancy Schindler and her husband Hans came to the area in 1969 when the cheese factory was in need of a cheese maker to keep the tradition running. After serving in the military, Hans went to work for Steiner Cheese where he learned the trait of cheese making.
When Hans and Nancy took over Broad Run Cheese House, Hans taught Nancy's brother and their son the art of cheese making. Since then, Broad Run Cheese has stayed a family affair.
In 1989, Nancy incorporated something she loved into the business. The Schindler's added a new addition to the cheese house and incorporated a small store where Nancy could sell ruffled curtains and lace.
It became apparent that the milk supply was not going to be enough to sustain the cheese business. "We started losing milk and we were afraid of being left with a cheese factory and no milk to make the cheese," said Nancy.
In the fall of 2002, the Schindlers began fermenting their own wine. "We had been thinking about doing it for some time and we just decided it was the right thing to do," she said.
With the help of their son, Chad, the Schindlers got into the wine making business and developed the Swiss Heritage Winery. The winery and cheese house was a perfect marriage.
Nancy likes to say "wine without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze."
Hans passed away in 2004 but he told Nancy that he would not change a thing about his life. "That made me feel good," said Nancy. They faced a lot of struggles throughout their first few years of business and Nancy can remember many breakdowns. The cheese business became a huge priority in the Schindler's life and "Hans worked for three years without a day off," said Nancy, about their first few years as owners of the cheese house.
Walking into the cheese house you get a sense of the Swiss heritage that has made the cheese making industry what it is as well as Nancy's German family heritage. From the spring to the late fall months the workers wear traditional Swiss dresses and greet customers with warm welcoming smiles.
"I have been blessed with wonderful employees," said Nancy. One of her employees has been helping to manage the store for 35 years. "I seem to fall in love with all my employees."
Broad Run Cheese house has a very laid back and quiet atmosphere. Take a stroll along the cheese bar and sample some of Broad Run's famous cheeses like their signature Blue Ribbon Swiss Cheese. To the left you will find a wine sampling area set up with hand-decorated tables and bar stools.
Each table is decorated with various wine labels from all their different varieties. Sample some of their most favored wines like Victorian Lace, which is a white wine made from Catawba and Niagara blend grapes. Other favorites include First Love, a semi-sweet blush wine and Dog Gone Good, a sweet red wine.
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Broad Run Cheese House is the perfect place to plan a romantic getaway for two. On Friday, Feb. 14 and Saturday, Feb. 15, Broad Run Cheese House will be serving up a Valentine's special of their signature Raspberry Wine served in chocolate rimmed glasses.
Find your way over to the gift shop and pick out a gift she will love to complete your romantic outing. Not only does Nancy carry some of the finest lace and ruffled curtains but a variety of gifts from home décor to the trendiest fashion accessories.
If you're just looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of main street Amish country, this little cheese house tucked away in the countryside makes for the perfect, peaceful escape. You may even find a furry, four legged companion wondering about the store.
"When I'm working, Madelyn comes down to the store and when I'm not working the customers always ask for her," said Nancy. Madelyn, the cheese house guard dog, loves to visit each customer and put on her best begging face in hopes that someone will share a piece of cheese with her.
"She is a very friendly, well-behaved dog and she knows she is not allowed behind the cheese counter. But she loves to beg for cheese," said Nancy.
"Everyone who meets her (Nancy) falls in love with her and Madelyn," said Knaus.
Nancy has fallen in love with the cheese house and more importantly her customers. Everyone who walks through the front door becomes a friend of Nancy's and she shares a quote from her church with all those who come to the cheese house: "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."
"I don't think I will ever retire," said Nancy.
Broad Run Cheese House is located at 6011 Old Route 39, Dover, halfway between Sugarcreek and Dover. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information call 330-343-3884 or visit www.broadruncheese.com.