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Slices of History: The Cheese Shops of American Yesteryear


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. 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. Di Bruno Bros. now includes five locations in the Philly area, plus two bottle shops, a restaurant, Alimentari, Banca, an event venue, and a seasonal outdoor cafe, Piazza Di Bruno.

DiBruno Bros.
DiBruno Bros.

DiBruno Bros.


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 had just three owners until 2017, when it was sold to Kroger’s, which now has Murray’s cheese “boutiques” in 800 of its grocery stores. Today, Murray’s has three locations in New York, plus two restaurants, Murray’s Cheese Bar , in Long Island City, and Murray’s Mac and Cheese, a pop-up adjacent to the flagship Bleecker Street shop. They also age their own cheeses in caves in Long Island City and host classes and events.

Murrays
Murray's


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 has been run by members of the Mogannam family since 1964. They opened a second location on Divisidero Street in the Western Addition neighborhood and a commissary kitchen in the Bayview District in 2013, and became a Certified B Corporation in 2015.

Bi-Rite

Bi-Rite


Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern ★ Monroe, WI

Emil Baumgartner (bottom photo) 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. It is America’s Dairyland’s oldest cheese shop. 

Baumgartner's

Baumgartner's


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 shop has its own ripening cellar, overseen by second-generation affineur Brian Wasik. 

Wasik's

Wasik's


The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills ★ Beverly Hills, CA

Col. Sigmund Roth (top 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 (bottom photo, second from right). 

Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
Cheese Store of Beverly Hills


Wisconsin Cheese Mart ★ Milwaukee, WI

Wisconsin Cheese Mart was founded in 1938 as a corner cheese shop on Milwaukee’s Old Third World Street in the mid-20th century, and now includes a second location in Madison. Milwaukee native and his wife, Melissa, purchased the business in 2003. They carry more than 150 varieties of Wisconsin cheese, which they ship all over the country. In 2019, the McNultys opened Brüdd Cafe to serve Wisconsin cheese paired with local craft beers, coffee, and wine. 

Wisconsin Cheese Mart

Wisconsin Cheese Mart


DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine ★ Seattle, WA

Shown below surround 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 as a grocery store in 1946 and reshaped it into an Italian specialty food shop. In 2001 DeLaurenti’s was purchased by three local residents who had worked at Seattle’s first Italian coffee roastery. These no-longer-new owners, Pat McCarthy, Matt Snyder, and Nate Plutko have carried on the family tradition of offering fine food and exceptional service. 

DeLaurenti


Bowers Fancy Dairy Products ★ Washington, DC

At their shop in Capitol Hill’s historic Eastern Market, the Bowers family has been cutting and wrapping wedges since Lyndon B. Johnson was in office. Now in its sixth decade, the shop is run by Mike Bowers and his son, Ryan. Despite its close proximity to the Capitol, Bowers doesn’t get political; its slogan is “cheese from all parts of the world.”

Bower's


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 three locations where it sells gourmet meats, seafood, and, of course, cheeses. The second Langenstein’s is located in Metarie, and the third and largest opened in 2015 in River Ridge. 

Langenstein's

Langenstein's


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). A second location in Boston’s Seaport opened in 2018. 

Cardullo's
Cardullo's


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.

J.P. Graziano


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.

Surdyk's

Surdyk's

Katie Aberbach

Always hungry for a good story, editor Katie Aberbach brings an extensive journalism background to the culture team. Formerly a food writer and editor for the Washington Post Express, Katie works to ensure that culture’s print coverage is timely, accurate, and – of course – appetizing.

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