351 Wise Road, Howard, Pennsylvania 16841
By Holly Riddle
September 06, 2020 08:00 AM
Many Centre County businesses have adjusted their focuses to better meet community and customer demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Amish cheese producer Goot Essa, in Howard, this included a bold step into the world of online retail.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Goot Essa, founded in 2001, shipped its gourmet cheeses to approximately 150 restaurants along the East Coast, 150 wineries and 50 gourmet foods shops. However, when the restaurant and winery business slowed in early March, Goot Essa founder John Esh Jr. said the effect was almost immediate.
“It was like someone hit a switch and things changed rapidly. Restaurants were forced to shut down. Wineries were forced to shut down,” he said. Within a few weeks, he and his family knew they needed to adapt and pivot their business focus. “At that point, we were like, OK, let’s come up with a plan that will keep the business afloat, thinking that, by August, surely things would be back to normal.”
Their solution? A website, where customers can order Goot Essa’s cheeses, gift baskets and condiments and have them shipped directly to their doors. However, the choice was not a casual one for Goot Essa.
“We try to stay with what has worked for us in the past,” Esh said of the Amish community. “And to be moving into the direction of the electronic world is a big move for us, and it’s not something that we take lightly.”
Even with the website taking orders, Esh does not own a computer or use the website directly. Instead, he works with a web manager who acts as an intermediary between the online customers and Goot Essa. Esh crafts the site’s messaging and Goot Essa’s new monthly e-letters and marketing, but leaves the tech work to the web manager, who is not a member of the Amish community.
“For us, we’re still not ready to have computers in our homes and to use that type of means to communicate with the world directly,” Esh said. “We will take our communications with our clients through a third party to make it happen.”
Since the website launched, Esh said, online orders have been slowly increasing. As restaurants reopen, he also said more of Goot Essa’s restaurant and winery business has returned. “The wineries in particular have more space than the restaurants do, where they can go outside, spread out and set up additional tables. People seem to feel comfortable and feel safe, as some of these tables might be 20 feet apart,” he added.
Goot Essa ships its cheeses all over the United States, along with its many related food products, but the new online ordering allows for locals to enjoy the brand’s products more easily as well.
“It’s handmade. It’s all-natural. It’s gourmet. There’s a lot of love in this product. The flavor that (customers) can get from our cheese, they may not be able to get in some of the more mainstream, mass-produced cheeses,” Esh said. “(It has) exceptional quality and flavor, and we also find that a little bit goes a long way.”
Additionally, when customers purchase Goot Essa cheese, they’re not only supporting one local dairy farm, but four other local Amish dairy farms.
“(We have) 19 different flavors and styles, including a number of sheep and goat cheeses. … My wife and I take care of the dairy farm and the cows, along with our children, of course, and then we have three other Amish farms we work with that do the sheep’s milk, and then one other neighboring Amish farm that does the goats’ milk for us,” Esh said. “We now are taking the milk from these five farms and making 19 cheeses with that milk, and marketing the milk for the other four farms, as well as the majority of the milk we produce here on our farm.”
Goot Essa’s new website can be found at gootessacheese.com.
The original article can be found here.