As more cheese shops open up across the United States, a handful of retailers are having the very best kind of senior moment. They’ve been in business a long time—decades; close to a century, even, for a few who’ve achieved a really ripe, old age. They’ve endured historic events large and small (the Great Depression, the 1990s’ low-fat craze); weathered multiple generations of ownership; and today they’re still going strong (inspiration to us at culture, as we mark our fifth birthday this season!). Some shops have evolved considerably to keep up with the tastes and preferences of their customers; others simply haven’t messed with success, and still look largely as they did on opening day. Among all 13 old-timers featured in this photo essay, the cheese selections may have shifted, and the faces behind the counters are certainly new. But some things—such as an infectious passion for great food—clearly never change.
DiBruno Bros. ★ Philadephia, PA
This “House of Cheese” was established by brothers Danny and Joe Di Bruno, Italian immigrants with only a third-grade education but a boundless entrepreneurial spirit. The pair first opened the Di Bruno Bros. Grocery Store in 1939, but decided to reinvent it as a gourmet cheese destination in 1965. In 2014, Di Bruno Bros.—which now includes five locations in the Philly area—celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Murray’s Cheese ★ New York, NY
In case New Yorkers had any trouble knowing where they were, Murray’s spelled it out for them on a window in the 1990s. Established in Greenwich Village in 1940 by Murray Greenberg, the business has seen just three owners over its 73 years, including present-day owner Rob Kaufelt, and has since expanded to two locations, plus mini shops inside select grocery stores.
Bi-Rite Market ★ San Francisco, CA
Still sporting the same neon sign and art-deco facade it opened with in 1940, Bi-Rite Market remains an iconic cheese destination of SF’s Mission District. The shop (and its second location on Divisadero Street) has been run by members of the Mogannam family since 1964.
Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern ★ Monroe, WI
Emil Baumgartner, above, opened his business in 1931, with the original aim of selling cheesemaking equipment to the several hundred factories in Wisconsin’s Green County. When the Depression hit, many factories were unable to pay in cash, so they paid in cheese instead. Baumgartner’s, in turn, began selling cheese, and then sandwiches, and soon, beer.
Wasik’s Cheese Shop ★ Wellesley, MA
This “mom and pop” neighborhood shop has been run by the Wasik family since 1979 (although the Wasiks have actually been in the cheese biz since 1964). It still looks much the same as it did in this photo from its earliest days—although hairstyles are slightly different.
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills ★ Beverly Hills, CA
Col. Sigmund Roth (first photo, second from left) became so enamored of European cheese stores while he was stationed abroad in World War II that he decided to set up his own shop back home in 1967. His business was originally part of the Cheese Shop International franchise; it was purchased in 1978 by present owner Norbert Wabnig (directly above, second from right).
Wisconsin Cheese Mart ★ Milwaukee, WI
Celebrating its 75th birthday in 2013, Wisconsin Cheese Mart was founded in 1938 as a corner cheese shop on Milwaukee’s Old Third World Street in the mid-20th century.
DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine ★ Seattle, WA
Surrounded by great cheeses in 1974, Lou DeLaurenti managed his family’s gourmet shop in Pike Place Market for decades. His father, Pete, established the business in 1946; the store’s current owners are not members of the DeLaurenti family, but still a sell a broad selection of specialty and Mediterranean foods.
Bowers Fancy Dairy Products ★ Washington, DC
Located inside Capitol Hill’s historic Eastern Market, Bowers has been cutting and wrapping wedges since Lyndon B. Johnson was in office. Despite its close proximity to the Capitol, Bowers—which turns 50 in 2014—doesn’t get political; its slogan is “cheese from all parts of the world.”
Langenstein’s ★ New Orleans, LA
The Big Easy’s oldest full-service grocery store, Langenstein’s has been family-owned and operated since Michael Langenstein and his sons, George and Richard, opened it in 1922. The business outgrew its original storefront in 1954, and now has two locations where it sells gourmet meats, seafood, and, of course, cheeses.
Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe ★ Cambridge, MA
Established in 1950 by Italian immigrant Frank N. Cardullo (the “unofficial mayor of Cambridge”), Cardullo’s has long-supplied the neighborhood around Harvard University with hard-to-find gourmet foods and ethnic specialties. The shop still bears the same stylized logo on its facade (though the Christmas decorations are out only once a year).
J.P. Graziano Grocery Company ★ Chicago, IL
Chicago’s oldest Italian market was founded in Chicago’s West Loop in 1937 by J.P. Graziano, far left (in front of the store’s delivery truck in 1943). It’s been in the family ever since, with ownership passing on to Graziano’s sons, Alfredo, middle, and Paul, and then on to two more generations.
Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop ★ Minneapolis, MN
Cheese wasn’t always a top seller at this family-run store, pictured in the early 1930s. The Surdyk family originally ran a grocery store, but added liquor in 1934, after the repeal of Prohibition. Surdyk’s expanded its cheese selection in 1979 when the business moved to its current location.