A Harford County woman has taken her charcuterie board business to new heights by opening a storefront in downtown Bel Air.
Kristin Danley-Greiner, Patch Staff
|Updated Wed, Aug 16, 2023 at 4:44 pm ET
HARFORD COUNTY, MD — Charcuterie boards offer a creative way to serve snacks and themed yummies at special events. Some say their origin can be traced to wineries and upscale restaurants, but now they can be found at baby showers, family reunions, birthday parties and even Super Bowl parties.
One Harford County business offering charcuterie boards has gone from a home business to opening an official storefront called The Grazing Room in the Terlyn Square shopping center on Churchville Road.
Boards by Dana sold its first charcuterie board to a paying customer in October 2021.
"I had been making boards for friends and family, and for guests, at my home for many years. I’ve always loved cooking, entertaining and feeding people. Making charcuterie boards was a fun, creative outlet for me. I created a food Instagram account where I would post my kitchen creations and the charcuterie boards were getting the most attention. After seeing how people responded on social media and in person when seeing my boards, I finally decided to give it a go and try to turn my creative outlet into a business," said Dana Berbenich, owner of Boards by Dana.
After starting her business, Berbenich discovered that charcuterie businesses are required to be licensed by the health department, meaning all prep work must be done in a commercial kitchen space.
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"When I started the business, I thought it would be a great side hustle I could do from home, but when I became aware of the requirements of renting and commuting to a commercial kitchen space - which was extremely difficult to find by the way and quite expensive for a small food business start-up - that changed things a bit. I was loving what I was doing, but I was not comfortable with the risk of being shut down or receiving a hefty fine for not going through the proper licensing process with the health department and operating from home," Berbenich said.
So she was faced with the decision of committing herself fully to her side hustle and taking on the overhead associated with her business: renting a commercial kitchen, licensing, insurance. So she took the plunge and became officially licensed in February 2022. Berbenich began renting space and prepping boards in a shared kitchen facility in Joppa. But her business grew so incredibly popular that she quickly realized she needed her own dedicated space for Boards by Dana.
"My garage was overflowing with my board and tray supplies, wooden boards and props for grazing tables, workshop supplies and dry ingredients. It was spilling over into my basement and dining room, too.
"As the business grew, I needed to scale a bit when it came to space and logistics. I had begun to order quite a bit of my items and supplies wholesale, but because I was still working a full-time job up until the end of May of 2023, it was extremely difficult logistically to be travelling back and forth to the kitchen in Joppa, to have wholesale orders delivered there, and to be shopping at several different stores for all of my ingredients. I knew I needed a bigger space, and preferably kitchen prep space that wasn’t shared with other food businesses, and I knew if I wanted to do that I would need to leave my full time position as well," Berbenich said.
She also realized she wanted to be closer to her main customer base in Bel Air and surrounding areas.
"When I thought about the increased overhead of renting my own commercial kitchen space, I knew that I would need to add additional revenue streams and find ways to make up for the increased expenses. A brick and mortar locations means we can add grab and go charcuterie, sandwiches, salads and drinks, as well as retail items - think everything you would buy to make a board at home: meats, cheeses, olives, crackers, jams, honeys, nuts, dried fruits, boards, cheese knives, etc. The brick and mortar/storefront space also gives me my own space to host events and teach my charcuterie workshops from. We also plan to make the space available to rent out for celebrations like bridal and baby showers, birthday parties," Berbenich said.
The boards Berbenich creates are for an array of occasions such as birthdays, weddings, showers, corporate events and meetings, nonprofit galas, graduations, holidays, celebrations of life and more.
"Our customers are those who are hosting or attending celebrations or events, charcuterie aficionados, cheese lovers, charcuterie DIY-ers at workshops and small business supporters," she said. "We hope to attract even more customers with our grab and go and retail products at our storefront."
The charcuterie boards created at Boards by Dana do sometimes include themes particularly for the holidays and the seasons.
"We also offer the option to have your theme incorporated into a board. I have done a 'Mean Girls' board, a '90s board, rainbow boards, dog-friendly boards, brunch boards, bachelorette party boards and more," Berbenich said.
Her favorite board so far?
"Board-wise, it’s probably the Beetlejuice board or one of my spooky Halloween themed boards. I love Halloween and all thing spooky. Or my viral Charcuter-TREE board from this past holiday season. The reel I made of me assembling the Charcuter-TREE board received over 14.7 million views and over 243,000 likes on Instagram and was featured in many articles and blogs. It also led to some brand partnerships and opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I had never made it," Berbenich said.
The regular menu at Boards by Dana includes boards that serve anywhere from one person (single serving cones, cups and mini boxes) up to 20 people (21 x 14.5-inch It’s A Party board). They have larger party options for groups of between 20 to 40 people, and offer grazing tables for groups of 30 people or more.
"The largest board we have made to date was a grazing table that was made to serve 600 people," she said.
Currently, Boards by Dana creates charcuterie boards for customers in Harford and surrounding counties. Their delivery area for regular boards extends 15 miles outside of Bel Air, but will travel further throughout the DMW for events and grazing tables.
"We even helped set up a table at the capitol building in Washington, D.C.," Berbenich said.
Boards by Dana has reached impressive heights in a short period of time and Berbenich credits her customers, friends and family for their support.
"My husband and my mom are my No. 1 fans and regularly help me with order prep, shopping, deliveries and events. My sister has travelled down from Long Island where I’m from on several occasions to visit, and I end up putting her to work when she’s here. My dad is helping me with the store remodel/build out. He lives in Vermont but has already made one of several trips down to help," she said.
"I also am lucky to have friends and other small business owner friends, many of whom I have met through Boards by Dana, who have been by my side cheering for me, supporting me and cutting cheese when needed," Berbenich said. "There is no way I could have possibly grown this business without their support and their help, I am so grateful for the support system I have."
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