Aruba) Bits & Cheeses: A Cheesy Dream

Bits & Cheeses saw the light of day early 2019, fulfilling a life-long dream of Brian Larmonie. It didn’t take much to convince his partner in life and business, Tracy Pietersz, to own and run a high-end delicatessen store with refined cheese boards and meticulously carved charcuterie. It is a quaint, warm, personal and open space, filled with upcycled and repurposed furniture.

An old coat rack and conference table from Tracy’s father’s old office, grandma’s sewing machine turned into a sink, tables made partly out of pallet wood, and the open cupboards displaying a range of assorted wines, olive oil, truffle honey and balsamic vinegar make it feel as if you’ve just stepped into your own living room. That’s exactly what Brian and Tracy attempted, and succeeded, in embodying. “Modernization isn’t always about innovating and changing, sometimes it’s about bringing it back to the basics and authenticity,” Tracy shares when asked how she feels about the business in the context of current modernization. And she isn’t wrong, global trends show that consumers are looking for “real” and “authentic” experiences from the tourism industry to neighborhood delis and restaurants. 

From Idea to Reality
Going from planning to conceptualizing and reality went surprisingly quick and was easier than expected. Neither Tracy nor Brian ever considered going to a bank for their start-up loan as they were lacking collateral, and risking their car was not an option. Tracy knew Oliver Vieira from Qredits, however, and planted the seed of a microloan in Brian’s mind during one of the many brainstorming sessions. Qredits was essential in assisting them with their business- and financial plans. It became so solid that everything to the smallest detail was laid out and there were no surprises as to how it would look, what it would cost, and how it would be run. While it all went seemingly smooth, even a great idea can’t avoid obstacles such as a cooler failing resulting in a massive product loss. With perseverance and a work-hard ethic picked up while training as a high-performance athlete, Brian overcame this challenge as any other: looking towards the future and aiming for the end goal. The end goal? For it to become a sustainable business where they’ll be able to offer everything from cheese boards to tapas and lunches in the near future and to work close with other Aruban entrepreneurs.  

What’s in a Name?
Apparently, everything. Before the deli became a reality, it was important to consider what types and brands of cheeses they wanted to serve local and international customers. Brian’s background in logistics gave him the skills needed to contact and persuade the Italian artisan cheese maker Beppino Occelli. The Sales Manager was immediately on board as exposure in the Caribbean and Latin American region was a unique opportunity for them to further globalize their brand. Having Beppino Occelli on board opened the doors to even more Italian artisan cheeses such as Salcis, Central and Arrigoni. Why Italian cheese? “French cheese is well-known for their high variety of soft cheeses, but Italian cheeses have everything from soft to hard and older cheeses”, Brian explains. They wanted to bring something new and different to their deli: freshly made bread from a local Aruban baker, cheeses & charcuterie from Italy, wines from Italy, Argentina and California in combination with the homey-feeling. Pinterest became the go-to source for inspiration that needed to be reeled in as it “became our best friend”, Tracy laughs.

Something for Everyone
The fact that Bits & Cheeses is so home-like is reflected in the type of clientele they get: from students and locals, to billionaires looking for a place to enjoy bits and pieces of cheese, charcuterie and wine with
light conversations with Brian and Tracy. High-end delicacies at an affordable price. They’re not only there for the food: it’s an entire experience and explosion of tastes from beginning to end with the many combinations of goat, cow and sheep cheese, charcuterie, topped off with fruit and nut additives, paired with delicious wine. Brian inquires about your preferences in cheeses and customizes a platter just for you and your dinner guests as, unique to Aruba, there is no set menu available. The entrepreneurs have had a slow and steady build-up of a diverse client base with one-timers (mainly tourists) and the loyal locals who share their unique experiences with their friends and family. Have a party of more than 12? Be sure to call ahead and reserve the place just for you and yours. As they don’t discriminate and want to share their love for cheese with all, they recently started catering to corporate events and just finished one during the last weekend of June. “It was stressful but a lot of fun!” Tracy informs me as she reminisces about their first corporate event, hoping to do about one a month in the future.   

Last Thoughts
It’s clear that a detailed business plan was essential for a smooth opening and building the business. However, as Tracy says, “You have to look to stand out. Try something different as people don’t want carbon copies of other things”. It is equally essential to see the client as a person, not a number and to go the extra mile for them – they are the ones who can make or break your business dream, after all.

“Everyone will tell you how to do it and will give you advice. Keep your eyes on your own target and take use the tips that are right for you”. It is easy to get overwhelmed when starting out as an entrepreneur chasing your dreams, but with a solid advisor, such as Qredits, passion and hard work that (cheesy) dream may become a reality.

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