NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Self-proclaimed as “a playground for the cheese rookie and rind-sniffing expert,” this hotspot for cheese in the Big Easy used to pride itself on the in-store experience offered at two locations: uptown and in the downtown Warehouse District. But all that changed once the pandemic hit. Now, the latter shop is temporarily closed, and connecting with consumers requires innovation…and an internet connection. “All this upheaval forced us to really get our online business in good working order,” explains co-owner Danielle Sutton. “We tripled the amount of cheeses, charcuterie, and specialty foods we have on our website, and customers can order for local pick-up or nationwide delivery.” In addition to an expansive cheese and accompaniment selection, the in-store restaurant also pivoted to a full takeout model with limited outdoor seating (think: cheese-filled sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie). But amidst all this disruption, Sutton and the rest of the staff have been able to find silver linings. They launched virtual pairing classes that have drawn large crowds, hosted pop-up farmers markets, and stayed focused despite the challenges of hurricane season and COVID scares. “Our customers have been so supportive and our team have been amazing troopers—despite the ‘Groundhog Day’ drudgery feeling we all have sometimes.”
5004 Prytania St., New Orleans, LA 70115
Mon. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 4 p.m
In the heart of America’s Dairyland, this Madison shop was used to crowds of cheese lovers looking to smell, touch, and sample their wide selection of wheels. Then COVID changed everything. “Traditionally, our store is packed with customers from all over the world,” explains Fromagination owner Ken Monteleone. “This year we have been looking at new ways to excite them.” That included putting together social distancing kits, DIY cheese boards, a Victory Cheese box, plus other delivery-friendly products offered on their online shop—all of which were a hit. “In a matter of weeks we sold well over 1,000 kits,” Monteleone says. Although they faced a major setback when their store was damaged during backlash to the Black Lives Matter protests, Fromagination saw this as an opportunity to give back, and launched a Women in Cheese gift set that allowed customers to choose a $10 donation to a charity of their choice—a symbol of this retailer’s ongoing determination and selflessness.
12 South Carroll St., Madison, WI 53703
Tues. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun. – Mon. close
PLYMOUTH NOTCH, VERMONT
The second-oldest cheese factory in the U.S., Plymouth Artisan Cheese is rich with history. It was founded in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge—the father of President Calvin Coolidge—whose iconic recipe has been passed down for generations. Under new owner Jesse Werner, it remains a family-run enterprise that produces traditional, raw milk cheddars with old-school equipment in its original building. Keeping all that charm alive during the pandemic has been difficult; it has meant making major changes to keep their customers safe and satisfied. Plymouth pivoted to allow for curbside pickup and window service options, and revamped their website to ease the experience of virtual shoppers. And although the on-site museum and education center had to shut down for safety reasons, the company continues to host socially distant events on the farm, where “Farmer Fred” entertains families with traditional farming activities—like sheep shearing and wagon rides.
106 Messer Hill Road, Plymouth Notch, VT 05056
Mon. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m