ROCKPORT — There’s a lot going on inside the State of Maine Cheese building at 461 Commercial St. in Rockport, and Oliver Perkins’ boutique charcuterie, “A Small Good” has taken up residence with a production space of its own housed within the bustling building.
Oliver Perkins and his wife, Kelly, moved to Midcoast Maine from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, approximately three years ago. A native of Sydney, Australia, Oliver was a journalist and holds an advanced degree in public history. He said that he and Kelly met in Australia, but decided to initially settle in Great Barrington, where Kelly grew up.
In Great Barrington, the Perkins’ wanted to farm. Oliver had experience working in on-farm slaughter and processing, and took a job working at a whole-animal butcher shop called “The Meat Market.” After just a year, he was appointed manager. It was during his tenure at that position that his passion for creating artisan charcuterie began to take shape.
“I started focusing more and more on the dry cured stuff,” Oliver said. He added that the Meat Market had an existing charcuterie program, but his interest assisted in elevating and expanding its offerings.
Meanwhile, the dream of securing their own farm was never far from the horizon.
“We wanted to farm, that’s sort of how I found my way into the food chain,” Oliver said with a smile.
Though the Perkins’ had the vision and drive to move forward with beginning their business, the Berkshires proved a challenging climate for a small startup.
“We essentially got priced out of the Berkshires. We were looking to start a farm and start a business, and we just couldn’t figure out a way to make it work there,” Oliver explained. He added that the “seasonality is drastic” there, adding to the difficulty of starting a business.
Oliver said that the couple had visited Midcoast Maine and decided to head in this direction after considering destinations, including Vermont.
“We looked here [in Midcoast Maine] and in Vermont, but really decided it would be nice to be by the ocean again,” Oliver said, adding that the character of the area was an attraction.
“There are a lot of interesting people here doing a lot of interesting things,” he said.
He worked for a spell at Maine Street Meats — which currently operates out of the State of Maine Cheese building — before forging ahead with A Small Good.
The production facility for A Small Good is housed in a small, but well-appointed space that Oliver said he built out specifically to suit the needs of his business. He custom fabricated some equipment including the specialized fermentation machines and drying chambers.
In early 2017, A Small Good made its debut at several local farmers markets, retail and restaurant clients also began to emerge. Oliver explained through their presence at farmers markets, A Small Good began to “drum up some investor interest.”
The trouble now?
“We just need more space,” Oliver said. He added that plans are in the works to expand A Small Good within the same building, and he hopes to be able to add an additional staff member this fall.
He explained that the process for creating cured meats can take anywhere from four to 12 weeks. Currently, A Small Good is experiencing what might best be described as a log of backorders.
Oliver explained that the process for creating cured sausages, salami for example, involves creating the filling, fermenting and curing the sausage. A Small Good uses wild fermentation which involves harvesting their own bacteria for the fermentation process, which is an unusual method, Oliver said.
Through their farmers market sales, Oliver said he formed relationships with farmers that could supply the high-quality, whole animals that he works with. Just this month, he and Kelly closed on a 150-acre property in Hope, Oliver explained that Maine Farmland Trust purchased easements on the property which they found via the Maine Farm Finder website.
“It’s a great way to start a farm, it’s been really, really helpful for us,” Oliver said, of working with Maine Farmland Trust.
He added that the couple had been looking for suitable property everywhere from Waldoboro to Montville for about a year. Beginning next fall, Oliver said they plan to raise their own pigs for A Small Good.
Oliver said A Small Good has just released a line of smoked sausages and bacon, and that the company’s clients range from prominent Portland restaurants, including Drifter’s Wife, which was just named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s “Hot 10,” to numerous artisan markets, wine shops and specialty grocers all along the Maine coast.
Oliver added that while they have several restaurant clients, he has have yet to turn his focus to the restaurant and catering side of the business. He added that both are markets that A Small Good will continue to explore as the business grows.
Jenna Lookner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org