Shop Talk: New and Noteworthy | culture: the word on cheese
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Shop Talk: New and Noteworthy

With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, there seems to be a collective yearning for togetherness after such a long period of isolation. Perhaps this is what’s driving the return to brick-and-mortar retail. Cheese shops have always been a place to chat with the monger, try something new, and feel connected to your community.

We spoke to the owners of six shops that opened in 2022, some of which are in cheese deserts, a.k.a. towns and cities that previously didn’t have a cheese-centric retail store. The one thing they all have in common is the warm welcome they’ve received from their respective communities.

Shea Cheese
Jenny Zink and Izaak Myers
10880 N 32nd Street, Suite 19 Phoenix, Ariz.
Opened: November 15, 2022

While everyone else was learning how to bake sourdough bread during the pandemic, Jenny Zink was busy learning how to make cheese. Zink has always been a cheese lover, but it wasn’t until she found herself with the extra time that she took her interest to the next level. She studied cheesemaking and mongering online but realized when it came to experiencing cheese in person, there was something missing from where she lives in Arizona. “We don’t have a cheese shop in Phoenix, how can this be?” she thought to herself. A natural entrepreneur, it didn’t take long for Zink to decide she and her husband, Izaak Myers, would be the ones to bring a cheese shop to their city. “We had always talked about it, but once I started getting into cheese during the pandemic, we thought it might be time to open our own.” Shea Cheese launched in November 2022 and has been met with lots of excitement. “The support from this community has been incredible,” she says. “We have customers who have never been in a cheese shop. Going up to the counter and tasting is new and exciting. I love getting to be a part of people’s first cheese memories.”

Provisions Williamstown
Peter and Diane MacGillivray
4 Water Street Williamstown, Mass.
Opened: October 27, 2022

When Peter MacGillivray left his hometown of Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1987, he had no idea he would return decades later to open his own specialty beer, wine, and cheese shop. “I grew up here with my six brothers and sisters,” he says. “It’s a magical town, a stunningly beautiful, tight-knit community.”

He and his wife, Diane MacGillivray, purchased a single-story building downtown without a plan. “We weren’t sure what direction to go, but when the town office said a beer and wine license had become available, we jumped at the opportunity.” From there, Provisions Williamstown started to take shape. “You can’t have a craft beer and fine wine store without cheese,” he says. “I’m an accidental cheesemonger, so to speak.”

He’s enjoyed researching cheese, especially local varieties from Massachusetts and nearby New York and Vermont. “We’re a stone’s throw from Four Fat Fowl farm and literally in the shadow of Cricket Creek Farm. They’ve all been so supportive of us and are happy to have another cheese shop in the neighborhood.” Since opening in October 2022, MacGillivray says the shop has experienced an enthusiastic welcome from the community. “Lots of people have come by and said how excited they are for us to be here. We’ve been so busy we’re just scrambling to stay on top of everything!”

Canyon Grocer
Kurt Gurdal
169 W Channel Road Santa Monica, Calif.
Opened: Labor Day weekend 2022

Kurt Gurdal always knew he would one day open his own cheese shop. Born and raised in Boston, he grew up working behind the counter of his parents’ famed shop, Formaggio Kitchen. “It’s in my blood and something I have so much passion for,” Gurdal says, “I love being in the community and sharing that passion with customers.” He sharpened his cheese chops at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London before returning home to Boston and the family business, where he worked his way up to general manager.

After moving to Southern California, Gurdal started making charcuterie boards as a low-cost way to start building a business and brand—cleverly named Kurt and Whey—with a plan to expand when the time was right. This past Labor Day weekend, he opened Canyon Grocer, a neighborhood shop in the beachy town of Santa Monica with a broad selection of gourmet cheeses, cured meats, and pantry staples. For Gurdal, it’s all about sharing his enthusiasm for food and creating a sense of community. “The customer base I’ve built already in these few months makes me tingle with happiness.”

Capella Cheese
Raymond Hook and Clay Jackson
255 Ottley Drive, Suite 110 Atlanta, Ga.
Opened: July 9, 2022

Atlanta is a city with almost everything in terms of food, but until last summer it was missing one key ingredient: a world-class cheese shop. With nearly 40 years of experience in the cheese industry, Raymond Hook was the perfect person for the job. Hook and his business partner, Clay Jackson, opened Capella Cheese in July 2022. “Our goal was to develop a cheese shop where the greatest cheesemakers in the world would want their cheese to be sold,” says Hook.

Hook describes his new venture as “a cut-to-order shop with a strong sampling program; we let people try anything in the store.” Not only can customers taste to their heart’s content, but they can also catch a glimpse of fresh mozzarella being made.

Hook is most proud of Capella’s temperature-controlled cheese rooms. “We have three specialized rooms to hold cheese in: one for hard cheese, one for blue cheese and washed rinds, and one for white bloomy rinds and soft-ripened cheese,” he says. Capella Cheese has received rave reviews and has been embraced by the city. “Whether they’re just starting their cheese journey or an expert with lots of knowledge, we love helping people find the right cheese.”

Gastromé Market
Jenny Le and Tiffany Chavez
7704 E Doubletree Ranch Road, Suite 140-145 Scottsdale, Ariz.
Opened: September 10, 2022

Gastromé in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a food-lovers paradise. The 5,000-square-foot space contains a restaurant, classroom area, and market with a wine alcove, bakery, and of course, an expertly curated cheese case. Owners Jenny Le and Tiffany Chavez designed Gastromé to be an intimate and immersive culinary experience. “It’s fun; it’s more than just shopping, you get to learn [about cheese] through stories and the environment,” says Le. Chavez is especially excited about the newly hired culinary director Adam Sanchez, who previously ran the cheese program at the French Laundry. “He has knowledge you can only get from someone deep in the cheese world,” Chavez says.

While it can be logistically challenging to source rare cheeses in Arizona, Le and Chavez are proud of the selection they offer, particularly the American artisan cheeses. In addition to carrying 85 types of international and domestic varieties, Gastromé hosts cheeseboard-making classes. Le and Chavez both say the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive, and that they are looking forward to hosting more parties and events in the space as the business continues to grow.

Pastiche Provisions
Rajna Bulut and Josh Poling
705 State Street, Suite 42 Bowling Green, Ky.
Opened: November 17, 2022

Rajna Bulut’s love of cheese and entertaining started when she was a young child watching her mother prepare food for guests, and it continued into adulthood. “In college we had a big cheese drawer in our fridge; we called ourselves the cheese palace,” she says. In 2020 she turned her love of entertaining into a small cheese board business called Cheese Queen. What started as a passion project became a full-blown career when chef Josh Poling approached her with an idea to open a shop offering cheeses, meats, sandwiches, and high-end groceries. Once the two started brainstorming, the idea snowballed.

“We kept adding items and it turned into a big smorgasbord of food we love and can now provide to the community,” Bulut says. Pastiche Provisions opened in November 2022. “Opening right before the holidays was exciting! We tried to do a soft opening, but the word got out and it turned into a grand opening.” In Bowling Green, Kentucky, there aren’t any other dedicated cheese shops, and Bulut is enjoying sharing her excitement for cheese with new customers. Right now, her favorite cheese is Alp Blossom. “It’s just so fun, I have to tell everyone who walks in the door about it!”

Josie Krogh

Josie Krogh is culture's Digital Strategy Lead. She earned her master's degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from The University of Georgia. Josie developed a love of food while working at farmstands in the D.C. area as a young adult, and discovered her love of cheese while living and working on a dairy farm on Martha's Vineyard. She is passionate about the food supply chain, fresh stone fruit, and dogs. Josie currently lives in Catskill, NY.

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