URBANDALE, Iowa -- Last year, we introduced you to the Churpi Churpidurkha -- endorsed by dogs, and their doctor, Urbandale veterinarian Anil Regmi.
A hard cheese made from the milk of yaks in the mountains of Regmi’s native Nepal, he started importing churpi and packaging it for sale in his back room.
It had only been 18 months, but Regmi wanted us to check out that back room now.
To cut to the chase, business is booming. Outgoing boxes of churpi have completely filled the room -- piled almost to the ceiling. Orders from some 350 Hy-Vee stores in multiple states are stacked high on the table. Orders from Fareway grocery stores and locally-owned pet supply shops sit nearby.
“It’s tripled," says office manager, Dee Steinhart, of the business churpis have added just since the spring of 2016. She's happy, but clearly a bit frazzled by the added work and inventory.
“I have staff that goes…’You’re making a mess!’” she laughs.
The mess has spread into an exam room, where the churpis are now cut and packaged to ship. Some 1,200 pounds of them every 45 days.
“I’m ready for more space," Steinhart sighs, "so we can expand.”
But everyone -- Dee included -- sees past the inconvenience to the greater good.
Regmi has opened a factory in employment-starved Katmandu, where he pays ten workers to process the churpis, and pays yak farmers for their milk.
The area is still recovering from the 2015 earthquake, and a portion of each sale goes to relief efforts. A few more reasons customers can be happy for Regmi’s success.
“Whenever they buy, they tell me “Doc, this feels really good -- because I’m helping my dog, as well as helping people in Nepal!'" Regmi laughs. "They DO tell me that!"
On his last visit, Regmi and company handed out a thousand dollars to the farmers. That’s a small fortune in the mountains.
But the churpi is also helping Iowans.
Meet Danbar and Danbari Magar. They’re refugees from Bhutan. They speak Regmi’s language and share his love of the product. Hiring them last month was yet another win-win.
“It will help them to pay their bills," Regmi says, "as well as it will help me because they’ll understand what churpi is!”
Des Moines actually has a Bhutanese population several thousand strong. Most were relocated here over the past decade after spending some 15 years in refugee camps in Nepal. Nepali-speaking Bhutanese were expelled from Bhutan in the 1990s as the government there looked to re-establish the "Tibetan ethnic purity" of its population.
With people here and in Nepal depending on him, Regmi says he’s not quite ready to spend money on a bigger facility just yet. But soon, he’ll have no choice.
It’s a good problem to have. One you’d wish, on a good man, with a good product like the Churpidurkha.
You can find the churpi at most Hy-Vee and Fareway stores, and at locally-owned pet supply stores in the Des Moines metro.
On November 13th, Dr. Regmi will fly to Nepal to visit his churpi factory in Kathmandu, and to deliver another round of donation dollars to the earthquake relief agencies and to yak farmers in the Himalayas.