After months and months of hard work and planning, Sheri LaVigne will be opening Seattle's newest cheese shop, The Calf and Kid, on April 23rd - that's just 10 days from now! [update - now open!] She was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her frantically busy day to chat about her plans for the shop...read on.
So how did you get the idea to start a cheese shop - and find the guts to actually go through with the idea?
My husband and I moved to Seattle from Brooklyn in 2005 and we really missed our neighborhood cheese shop, Bedford Cheese. We attended the Seattle Cheese Festival in 2006 and I was astounded by all the amazing cheeses being produced in the Pacific Northwest. I went home thinking - awesome, now we just have to find our cheese shop! - and I was pretty shocked to find that there weren't any stand alone cheese shops in the Capitol Hill area. It was later, over wine and about $100 worth of amazing cheese back in our old 'hood in Brooklyn that it really hit home how much I missed that quality of life element in our new city, Seattle, and I thought since no one else seems to be opening a cheese shop, why don't I make it happen?
I spent over a year mulling it over, researching small businesses and talking with cheesemongers around the country. Once I made that decision the whole project started to take on a life of its own; it was clear that I had hit on something Seattle desperately needed and wanted. My investors are a true testament to this; I put out a call for funding once I finally got the big "no" from the SBA, and within two weeks I had 3 amazing people willing and ready to help me make my dream come true.
Besides cheese, what else do you plan to carry in the shop?
I'll be carrying fresh bread from Macrina Bakery and an assortment of typical cheese accompaniments like olives, gourmet crackers, jams, chocolate, etc. I will also be selling some of my favorite books about cheese and Culture Magazine. Right next to me will be Homegrown Sandwiches (their second shop). They will have a rotating sandwich featuring cheese from Calf & Kid. On the other side of me will be a wine bar so I don't need to sell alcohol....It's wonderful to have these neighbors in the Marketplace because I can really concentrate on the cheese.
Given that Seattle is such a food town, why do you think there are so few cheese shops? We know people like cheese, so what's the deal?
I think it's a combination of a few things. First off, a lot of people simply don't know what they're missing because dedicated cheese shops aren't prevalent in the city. We know they love the cheese counters at shops like Metropolitan Market and DeLaurenti's, and those places have paved the way for me to present an experience that is similar to what they already know and love, but also so much more than what they are used to. Secondly, I think it's easy for people to be intimidated by cheese, but it's also very easy to alleviate that by offering a fun, easy-going atmosphere. And nothing cuts the ice better than a delicious sample of good cheese!
Can you talk about your approach to selling cheese?
My approach is based entirely on my experience as a customer in my favorite cheese shops: I like shops that are friendly, casual, and very educational and I plan to give my customers that same experience. I'm one of those kooky people who actually loves customer service - I get so jazzed when I talk about cheese, and that energy is very contagious. Nothing makes me happier than watching someone's face light up when they taste an amazing cheese, and people love to hear the background information of where and how cheeses are made. I want every person to walk away with cheese they are excited about and a great story to tell.
The Melrose development seems like a great location. What other shops/restaurants are going in around you?
The Melrose Market is really a group of amazing group of people. Matt Dillon is moving Sitka & Spruce from Eastlake into a large restaurant space, and I could not be more excited about working with him. Matt is also working with some other folks to open a raw oyster bar and wine bar, both of which will happen sometime in the summer. Marigold & Mint is currently open selling organic flowers and some fresh veggies as the season progresses. Across from my space is Rain Shadow Meats, offering all local, sustainably raised fresh meat, and a selection of charcuterie. The owner, Russ Flint, has built his own aging room right in the space with windows where you can look in to see the salamis and etc. I am so happy to have him in the space. And then there is Homegrown Sandwiches, as I mentioned earlier. We often joke that the only thing we need is a bakery and we're all set.
What are your three favorite cheeses of the moment + why?
Of course this changes pretty regularly, but right now I am in LOVE with Rivers Edge Chevre's Humbug Mountain, it is so sloppy and gooey and makes me shudder a little when I eat it. I am also loving L'ulivo, a sheep's milk cheese from Italy. It's wrapped in olive leaves and is oddly shaped like a giant wad of gum, but it is delightfully creamy and aromatic. And I can't get enough of Gothberg Farms fresh chevre - it's simple, light, sweet, and reminds me very much of the fresh chevre I grew up eating.
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Calf and Kid
1531 Melrose Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122