In 2009, Kristy Hadeka and Sean Tice began using slate to create all-purpose boards from Kristy’s family’s quarry in upstate New York. Soon after, they discovered their multi-use functionality and began gifting pieces to friends. The boards were such a success that they started their own company, Brooklyn Slate. Read on to find out the benefits of using slate, what they love about their jobs, and what goes into their craft.
Kristy: A few years ago, Sean and I decided to head up to Vermont to visit my parents for a short vacation. While waiting for our train, we came across slate cheese boards at Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central. We were both drawn to them and I remarked, “Hey, this is something we could make.” We went to visit my family’s slate quarries while we were in Vermont, and the idea started to take shape. Sean, being a true designer, had a logo created and website built before we even had a solid line of goods in place.
At the time, Sean had just been laid off and I was in school. We both had flexible schedules and really wanted to spend our free time working on a creative side project. After that visit to Vermont, we created some prototypes back in Brooklyn. One day we set out in the pouring rain with a bag of samples and literally just started knocking on doors at local cheese shops. By the time we got back home, we had five orders and suddenly realized this could be something bigger. At that point, we just put our heads down and moved forward, and within our first month we had orders from another five stores. We haven’t looked back since!
Sean: Sourcing the slate is a labor intensive, arduous process. Huge boulders of stone are pulled up from the quarry, then split into more manageable pieces by hand using a chisel and hammer. These pieces are sawed down into smaller sheets, finally taking shape as cheese boards.
The sawing process produces scrap that doesn’t have much immediate utility. We use this material to cut our garden markers.
What do you like best about your craft?
Sean: We love producing goods that people connect over. We see our cheese boards in particular as a vehicle for good food and good conversation – our hope is that the unique presentation will spark a dialogue about the food that’s plated on the board, and how that food was prepared and where it was sourced from.
Describe a typical day at Brooklyn Slate.
Sean: A typical day begins with a morning meeting where we discuss production goals for that day. From there, we just go at it.
Kristy: A reality of running a small business is that you never know what the day will bring. Invariably, the day always starts out one way and ends in a completely different way. We love it.
Do you have a garden? If so, what do you grow?
Kristy: We’re limited on space in our apartment in Brooklyn, but we do have a tiny backyard area where we grow herbs and a lot of flowers. In Vermont, we’re growing lots of vegetables — cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes — and at this time of year, a few pumpkins.
Kristy: Slate is a naturally occurring stone, and each one is completely unique in color and stratification (the jagged lines that run through the stone). Unlike boards made of wood, slate is impervious to fungus or mold and will not deteriorate or discolor over time. Also, all of our boards come with a soapstone pencil, which you can use to write the names of cheeses and hors d’oeuvres directly on the board.
Soapstone, chalk, crumbs, and liquids wipe off easily with a damp sponge or towel. Our boards can also be washed with a sponge and dish soap, and are dishwasher safe. In order to maintain a slightly polished look, wipe down the board with a drop or two of food grade mineral oil twice a year.
Sean: Surface space is at a premium. We cut a larger board to sit on top of our stovetop so we can have our toaster and blender out without taking up space on the actual countertop. When we have friends and family over, we pull out our narrow slate cheese board to plate our favorite cheeses.