☰ menu   

Shop Talk: Innovation 2021



Self-described as “the original vegan cheesemonger,” Riverdel is reimagining the identity of a traditional artisan cheese shop—by keeping all the traditions and none of the dairy. “I love cheese,” says owner Michaela Grob. “When I became vegan for ethical reasons, I started looking around for some great vegan cheeses…they weren’t easy to find. That’s how the idea was born!” Since opening in 2015, this shop has become an artisan vegan cheese destination; it carries local and international wedges that are cut-to-order—including their own line, “Billy,” made from fermented cashews and dairy-free cultures. As the demand for dairy-free cheeses grows—due to vegan, lactose-intolerant, or general curiosity reasons—so does their business. And Grob encourages everyone to have a taste. “Just because you had a vegan cheese that wasn’t great once, that shouldn’t represent the whole selection,” she says. “And although we strive to develop something that’s similar to the cheese we’ve come to know, vegan cheese isn’t about being a replica. Just as cow’s milk cheese tastes different to goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese, vegan cheese is made with a nut-base and has a different flavor.”

Essex Market, Stall 3588 Essex St.

Mon. – Fri. 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sun. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.




This Chicago-based co-op puts the health and wellbeing of their community at the forefront of its business. “Consumer co-ops have a cool way of doing things differently,” says general manager I’Talia McCarthy. “We’re people working together for better food, stronger communities, and a healthier world.” Owned by over 3,000 volunteers, Dill Pickle prioritizes locally-made, organic, and fair-trade products—a practice that stretches from the produce section all the way to the dairy department. The cheese section features 12 feet of sustainably produced cheeses that the staff is happy to educate customers about, both in-person and through social media. The co-op also prioritizes the importance of sustainability through strong recycling, composting, and food donation practices. The staff’s hope is their community-based initiative will become contagious. “We are currently one of only two consumer co-ops in the Chicago area,” McCarthy says. “I hope to see an emergence of more cooperatives in the city—specifically in locations that are considered food deserts—and that we can help support any other local communities who are trying to do the same.”

2746 N Milwaukee Ave.


Daily 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.




Empowering women can be as easy as heading to your local cheese shop. At least, that’s what Mill City Cheesemongers in Lowell, Massachusetts, is trying to accomplish with their initiatives to highlight women cheesemakers and food producers. As gender discrepancies remain in the cheese industry—especially for those in leadership positions—this shop amplifies women-owned businesses by labeling products throughout the store with “Women Behind the Wheel” and “Women in Wine” signs and encouraging guests to interact with mongers. The shop also partners with local organizations like Girls, Inc. and the Massachusetts Cheese Guild to help fund their efforts and highlight community-based goals. And Mill City Cheesemongers’ push for more progressive mongering practices is only growing; last fall, they partnered with local candymaker Sweet Lydia’s to open the Lowell Culinary Collaborative, a place to purchase, learn, and taste local goods made by women. “When we decided to work together, we wanted to prioritize collaborating with other woman-identified food professionals,” says owner Beth Falk. “Our mutual experience and the stories we’ve heard made it clear that we needed to work especially hard to be more inclusive and to learn how to make space for people whose voices haven’t been heard enough.” Although educational classes and in-person tastings are temporarily shut down, folks can still sign up for virtual gatherings through the Lowell Culinary Collaborative’s website.

160 Merrimack St.


Tue. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Monica Petrucci

Monica is Culture's former Social Media Editor. Coming from a formaggio-obsessed Italian family, she was very excited to combine her passions for cheese and writing at Culture. She loves experimenting in the kitchen and pairing wine and cheese in her spare time.

Leave a Reply