LONG BEACH, CA
This past year-and-a-half has brought a lot of turmoil for small businesses—but some good has come out of it, like Oh La Vache, opened by longtime friends Jessica Sarwine and Erika Ponzo this past spring. When the pandemic hit, Ponzo had just closed her sandwich shop, wanting to spend more time with her family. “My husband suggested opening a cheese shop closer to home, because it’s less time consuming and less stressful than a restaurant,” she says.
Ponzo was eager to get started but knew she couldn’t do it alone. Enter her friend Jessica, who has experience in the specialty food world, a knack for managing, and a profound love for cheese. After a few COVID-related setbacks, they finally opened their doors in April. “All of our customers so far have been so welcoming,” Ponzo says. “It’s like we’re hosting a party all day—it’s the best job ever!”
Oh La Vache
2112 East 4th Street, Long Beach, California 90814
Longtime friends Amy Burritt and Cheri Intveld had dreams of starting a business together for almost 20 years before stumbling upon the idea of a cheese shop last summer. And since opening their doors in February, there’s been no turning back. “We’ve had an absolutely phenomenal response,” Burritt says. “The entire community has basically been rallying to say, ‘We are so excited that you’re here. We’ve been waiting for you.’”
The shop is stocked with almost 100 local, regional, and international cheeses, plus plenty of accoutrements and beers to pair them with. “We’re kind of addicted to finding everything we can and having as much here as we can manage,” she says.
The women have been through a lot together, all of which Burnitt says prepared them for this new challenge. “I had breast cancer last year. And Cheri was just diagnosed with it this past week,” she says. “As a new business, we’re trying to navigate how to support her while keeping the business alive and thriving and growing, because it’s still so new. But as longtime friends, I don’t worry about how we’ll work it all out. I know it’ll happen, and I know the community that’s already starting to form at our shop will be there to support us.”
Euphoric Cheese Shop
139 W. End Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37934
Mandy Wynn says she was BKLYN Larder’s biggest fan before she bought the shop from former owners Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg in 2016. “Larder had catered some milestone birthday and anniversary celebrations in my life,” she says. “It was, like, the number one spending source on my credit card.”
Previously, Wynn’s career had varied from TV production to fashion PR to nonprofit fundraising. But stepping into her role at BKLYN Larder offered a new perspective on leadership. “I didn’t really understand the role of gender in leadership until I was in it,” Wynn says. “I realized that there are things about being a woman owner that make people uncomfortable,” she says, referencing, as an example, a box of free tampons she placed in the shop’s bathroom that would always get hidden.“But you’ve got to meet that head-on and talk about it.”
Wynn has made it her goal to prioritize a wider selection of domestic cheeses and accompaniments that highlight local producers. “So much of what drives me is the people that make these products, getting to know them and their stories, and supporting them,” Wynn says. “And it’s so rewarding to have customers engaged, asking questions and learning something new.”
228 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217