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Miles Cahn: 198 Goats Kicked Him Back Into Business



Miles Cahn had a quieter life in mind. So after he sold his Coach Leatherware Co. to Sara Lee Corp. in 1985, he and his wife, Lillian, moved to their farm in upstate New York. To keep busy, they set out to run a small goat farm, producing cheese. But the goats had bigger plans. Says Cahn, 70, laughing: "We're held hostage day and night, seven days a week."

Farmer Cahn's original 198 French Alpine goats now number 700. His farm has doubled, to 650 acres, and the once cozy little occupation has turned into a $ 1.5 million-a-year business.

Coach Farm--named for the prosperous leather-goods company Cahn built up over 39 years--has taken off because of the keen demand for fresh goat cheese in a country where two-thirds of the product is imported. Cahn now sells French-style fresh and aged cheeses, as well as yogurt, to 400 restaurants and gourmet shops, including several in California.

The products are winning raves. In July, Coach took two top awards at the International Fancy Food Show in New York. And the slightly gamey, firm cheese wins praise at epicurean haunts such as Lutece and Bouley. "Wonderful," says Jean Michel Diot, chef and owner of Park Bistro, which uses the cheese in a popular warm potato salad appetizer called petatou de chevre frais.

With sales climbing 25% a year, Cahn says, profits are a year away. But he's hoping to step back soon and bring in investors who can build distribution and marketing. Then, he and Lillian can spend more time keeping company with Pink Nose, Bent Ear, Emily, and their 697 other closest friends.EDITED BY ANDREA ROTHMAN; Bruce Hager in New York

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