When Amanda Parker joined Cowgirl Creamery as then-deputy managing director in 2018, she expected certain challenges: the ongoing integration of Cowgirl with Swiss multinational acquirer Emmi and the retirement of founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith. But a pandemic-triggered closure of the San Francisco Ferry Building store of the iconic West Marin farm-to-table organization wasn’t on her bingo card.
“Closing that location was heartbreaking,” says Parker. “But focusing on growing and building the rest of the business into an even healthier and more robust ecosystem was the right decision.” She credits the balanced skill set she gained at Haas for helping her navigate the turbulence. “Modern leadership blends empathy and open leadership in a way that allowed me to say, ‘I feel awful about this. I’m sad. But here’s why it makes financial sense,’” Parker says.
One of only about 1,200 Certified Cheese Professionals worldwide, Parker started as an entry-level cheesemonger at artisanal retailer Murray’s Cheese in New York, where she advanced to vice president within seven years.
Under her leadership, Cowgirl’s new production facility, which came online in 2017 and hit its stride shortly before COVID, has invested in growing existing products and initiating an innovation pipeline for future new products.
And while the pandemic forced the closure of one store, it also allowed access to customers beyond the Bay Area via virtual cheese tastings and corporate events. “Historically, there’s been resistance to purchasing food online that you can’t see, touch, or smell,” says Parker. “But we’ve broken through that.”