Reinventing Yourself: The Birdie’s Pimento Cheese Story

April 5, 2024 | Amanda Green
Inventors and entrepreneurs not only bring new ideas and products to life. They often reinvent themselves, letting go of previous careers to embark on exciting ventures that bring excitement and purpose to their lives and the world around them. These are some of their stories. 

Robin Allen, affectionately known as “Birdie,” successfully transitioned from a long-standing career owning a print shop in Southern Virginia to becoming the face behind Birdie’s Pimento Cheese – a brand that has captured the hearts (and taste buds) of many. Her journey from the print shop to the kitchen is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the pursuit of passion.

Robin was on track to start a career in communications and found herself drawn into the printing industry almost by chance. Her father received a cancer diagnosis during her final semester of school at Appalachian State University. She returned home to help her mother, and Robin’s father died shortly after her graduation. 

At this point, she needed a job. A friend suggested she apply at a printing company in her hometown. That’s where she met her husband Glenn. He was the production manager who initially hired her as a stripper (a now-extinct job in the print industry, but still her husband’s favorite story to tell). Glenn dreamed of owning his own print shop, so together, they opened Dogwood Graphics, Inc. in January of 1990. 

For 25 years, they enjoyed helping customers promote weddings, new businesses, and announcements of all sorts. “I enjoyed it immensely. Since we were a small printshop in a small town, we helped our customers through many life events,” Robin says. Yet, as fulfilling as the printing business was, Robin sensed a growing desire for change. The spark that ignited the transition came from an unexpected source—the South Hill  Farmers Market in  South Hill, Virginia, Robin’s hometown. Encouraged by friends and driven by Glenn’s curiosity, Robin ventured into the world of pimento cheese, a decision that would reshape her career path. 

Building a Brand from Humble Beginnings

In the early 2000s, Robin and Glenn got involved in creating the town’s new Saturday morning farmer’s market. It was mostly Glenn’s project then, but then a friend who supplied bread goods to the market sampled Robin’s pimento cheese and suggested selling it at the market. “I laughed at her and said, I’m not into all that,” Robin says. But after her husband’s unfortunate attempt at dabbling as a vendor with a not-so-successful cabbage patch, she decided Pimento Cheese would be the best path. “As the cabbages started to grow as good little cabbages do, our hound dog, Day-z, would nip the tender head of that cabbage right off. Pull the whole plant out of the ground! Glenn was beside himself,” Robin reminisces. “One day, Glenn was fussing at the dog so bad, I asked him if he was sure it was the dog. I mean, really, a dog eating cabbage?!” That’s when she suggested making pimento cheese, a beloved Southern staple she grew up eating. 

Navigating the bureaucratic process of obtaining permits and approval turned out to be a hassle and a hurdle. But they eventually found a kitchen location, acquired the proper permits, and got their little business off its feet. Birdie’s Pimento Cheese was born in 2014.  Their first sale was at the South Hill Farmers Market. They took 30 tubs, ten each of Jalapeño, Garlic Parmesan, and Cream Cheese + Black Pepper. Birdie remembers, “We sold out the first day, we were so proud of ourselves.” That first Saturday turned into ten, which turned into new markets, new flavors, and eventually retail shops. 

Transitioning to a Full Time Business

The reception at their hometown farmer’s market was so successful that by April 2015, Robin and Glenn finalized the sale of their printing business and took to selling Birdie’s Pimento Cheese full-time. “While it was still a hobby, folks would ask, when do you find the time to do this too?” Robin says. “I always said that I found it relaxing. And I did, and still do. It was so different from the print shop that it could take my mind off our stresses. And now, I love the easier schedule. I love meeting so many new people. I love building this brand.” Robin says the support from friends and family has been amazing. It took a lot of trial and error, but she’s happy and thankful that her friends were there to help her through it. 

The inception of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese came from Robin’s entrepreneurial spirit. What started as a one-day experiment blossomed into a thriving business fueled by Robin’s passion for creating delicious flavors and her knack for building connections within her community. Robin was 50 years old when she decided to turn her Pimento Cheese recipe into a brand – a testament that you’re never too old to change your career path. She has some advice for women who may feel like they’re too old to start over with a completely new career: “Life throws curve balls, but you are never too old to get in the game. Just make sure it’s a game you want to play,” she reveals. “When we sold the printing business, Glenn and I made a list of goals we wanted to achieve in this new phase of our lives. One of the things on my list was to learn new things. I’m naturally curious in the kitchen, in the garden, and life. That’s part of what makes Birdie’s Pimento Cheese so interesting.”

Future Plans for Birdie’s Pimento Cheese

The best part is that Birdie’s Pimento Cheese is still just getting started. As many entrepreneurs know, the game never ends. There are always new ideas and paths to growth to explore. Robin shares that she has big goals. She feels her community is underserved in many ways, so she hopes to help it grow and thrive. Her sales goals include a path to a larger goal of being able to provide well-paying jobs to her employees. “I know I’ll always have to keep a small team, but I’d love my team to enjoy exceptional pay and benefits.” 

Networking is another big part of her goal. As an entrepreneur, she’s always learning. “I love talking with other business people, understanding how they view their business, and discussing how they make the decisions they make. Finding opportunities and networking, serving my customers, and knowing that the reach is all across the U.S. is just thrilling.”

In Robin Allen’s world, reinvention is not just a possibility—it’s a way of life. As she continues to grow the Birdie’s Pimento Cheese story, she invites others to embrace change, chase their passions, and savor the sweetness of life’s unexpected flavors.