Ellen Waggett and her husband, Christopher Landry, didn’t set out to open a cheese shop. But after the two New Yorkers purchased a vacation home upstate, they saw an opportunity in Columbia County. “We always said that when we were looking for a house, we wanted to be within 15 minutes of a really good wine store and a really good cheese store,” Waggett says. Chatham didn’t have a cheese shop, and as the couple saw new businesses popping up around town, Waggett and Landry considered taking matters into their own hands. “It honestly started as a joke over cocktails, but the more we thought about it, the better it seemed,” Waggett says.
When a retail space became available on Chatham’s Main Street in 2014, the duo decided to go for it. Bimi’s Cheese Shop—named for Ellen’s late mother—drew immediate interest from the community, and Waggett and Landry have since started an online storefront to keep the shop in business during the slow winter months. Bimi’s offers a mix of local cheeses and international wheels, plus a menu featuring such comforts as grilled cheese, breakfast foods, and more—all the necessities for a weekend escape.
culture: How do you balance your full-time careers and the shop?
Ellen Waggett: The dumbest thing you can do is open a retail store in your weekend getaway [town]; I’m the first to say it. But all of us—Chris and I and our kids—are so passionate about Bimi’s. I work there as a cheesemonger at least two days a week, and I work four days at NBC as the production designer on Late Night with Seth Meyers. It’s very natural for Chris and me to run a cheese store for an hour in the morning, go to meetings about a red carpet for VH1, jump on a phone call about the cheese store, and then hop a night train to D.C. to research shooting something at the White House. We can both float pretty seamlessly from one to the other, because that’s what we’ve always done.
culture: What interested you about working with sustainable food?
EW: That really grew out of where we’re located. There are so many small farms in Columbia County and so many people trying to bring those farms back to life. And those people are our neighbors. Learning about cheese just made me more and more interested in the whole process, the whole cycle of producing food.
culture: What’s a favorite memory from the store?
EW: When we were opening, we were trying to figure out what to call it. My mother’s “grandma” name was Bimi; that’s what my children called her. She was the most well-traveled, interesting, charismatic, and just fun person in the whole world, who loved nothing more than to curl up with her friends and family, a bottle of wine, and a beautiful cheese plate. So we named it after her—she would’ve been an amazing patron—and every single time I walk into the store, it makes me smile.
culture: Tell us about a memorable customer interaction.
EW: We have so many children who have fallen in love with cheese that we sell. It’s so cute to have little kids come in, walk right up to the counter, and ask: “Do you have [Consider Bardwell Farm] Manchester in today?” They just know so specifically what they’re talking about—I treasure that.
Bimi’s Cheese Shop
21 Main St.
Mon.–Tue. 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
Wed.–Sat. 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sun. 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Feature Photo Credit: Blanche Mackey