WILMINGTON — From Covid startup to a full-scale retail operation, Sara Lester is seeing through an entrepreneurial dream born out of enjoying drinks and snacks with friends.
“We always loved to host gatherings and have people try different, tasty things,” she told Port City Daily.
She and her husband, Drew — self-described foodies and newly minted Wilmingtonians — moved to the area from Virginia in the middle of the pandemic, with the goal launch their startup charcuterie company Boundless Boards as retail. Lester began the business in 2020 after experiencing reduced hours at her former corporate job due to Covid-19 shutdowns.
“It started as a side hustle,” she said, “something to fill in the time. I just wanted to bring a little happiness to everybody in the area.”
A few small orders the first month, 10 or 15, led to multiple large orders, 50 or 60. Then, Lester and her husband — also a partner in his family’s insurance company — decided to begin shipping nationwide.
“We already were considering relocating, just to get a different change of scenery,” she explained.
The couple visited the Port City numerous times and “fell in love with the area,” so it wasn’t a stretch when Wilmington made the top of their list. After moving last year, the Lesters had to start over from scratch in a new state: reapplying for shipping but more importantly securing all documents to launch their first retail shop at 4107 Oleander Dr. Unit J, with the goal to open by the end of 2021.
Yet, delays on the administrative side with paperwork and permitting held up the operation’s opening. They spent seven months transforming the former Copycat Print Shop space, located beside Panacea Brewing Company, in Anderson Square, into a commercial kitchen.
The retail shop opened two months ago.
Lester said having a storefront allows her business to focus more on customer needs, including quicker turnaround on ordering. In the midst of the pandemic, she noticed a lot of charcuterie businesses were upstarting, but said many continued only as side hustles once reopenings normalized. As such, some companies would require orders be placed sometimes a week in advance, as business owners juggled other jobs.
“We went this route to be a little bit more customer service savvy,” Lester said. Boundless stocks boards in a refrigerator, available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it takes customized orders to be filled more quickly.
“A storefront presence also means being able to carry other products that go with our boards,” Lester added.
One is Boundless Boards’ Bobo pimento cheese. Currently, the business sells about five pounds a week, Lester said.
“It’s a little bit different consistency than your typical pimento cheeses,” she explained. “It also has a little bit of a kick, but it’s not super spicy by any means — no preservatives, sulfites and all that stuff.”
Boundless Boards sells blocks of specialty cheeses featured on the charcuterie boards, offered in five sizes. It starts with mini boards ($25) — enough for a “healthy” appetizer for three people — and moves up to extra large boards ($250) to feed 35.
Lester makes a point to work with regional farmers, in addition to procuring higher-end national and international cheeses and meats that are above-the-cut, so to speak. For instance, salamis and prosciuttos come from San Francisco and Italy, while cheese is sourced from Ashe County in North Carolina to the Sartori brand, based out of Wisconsin.
Local seasonal fruits stack against various accoutrements, often including spreads like fig jam and local honey. Right now, Boundless Boards is featuring cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese and pumpkin butter, for example.
“We are always searching and expanding for local products,” she said. Lester wants to work with local foodmaker Kind Cultures to add a vegan “cheese” option to the board inventory.
She works with smaller businesses along the East Coast, including Terrapin Ridge Farms for assorted crackers. Boxes also align the store shelves, alongside wine and Poppy’s Popcorn out of Asheville. The plan is to evolve the offerings that pair with the boards as the business continues to grow.
Lester said the company will bring on its first employee ahead of the holiday season. By 2023, Boundless Boards will be certified to ship nationwide again, as the owners had to reapply the business in the state of North Carolina.
Her long-term vision is to expand retail locations into other nearby coastal towns: “near Emerald Isle and the New Bern area, or even toward Myrtle Beach.”
Boundless Boards is open Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; reservations are accepted on Tuesdays. The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce will host its ribbon cutting Thursday.
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