Friday, March 26, 2010

Taste Takes Flight

So, I don't know whether to applaud or bemoan this news. Taste Artisan Cheese & Gourmet Shop in Hillcrest is closing next Wednesday. However, like the proverbial phoenix, it rises in mid-April at the Little Italy Mercato on Saturdays--and if all goes according to plan, says owner Mary Palmer, the new TasteCheese will be at several other local farmers markets by mid-May. Okay, time for applause.


The Palmers (Mary and husband George) are referring to their new venture as "streetail," and it allows them to do something that's been missing while they've been minding a store: get back to the customers and get back to the cheese. Sourcing it. Learning more about it. Identifying new small artisan producers.

So, while the physical shop will no longer exist, TasteCheese will. They'll still offer cheese plates and gift baskets. Still offer cheese classes. Still offer a variety of cheeses. Of course, the latter will be scaled back to about 12 to 15 varieties a week given the limitations of storage and farmers market booths, but these cheeses will change throughout the year.

 

"We plan to cycle through our inventory each week to retail customers and chefs, and that will allow us to mix it up with a greater variety of artisan cheeses, a rotating selection of goudas, blues, and cheddars along with other customer favorites," Mary explains.

Get on the TasteCheese mailing list and you'll receive a weekly e-blast from Mary letting you know what's available at the upcoming market. The same information will be on Twitter (she's @shreddedblend) and Facebook.

And, you'll want to take a look at the website. It's being redesigned to offer customers more information, Mary says, and they're anticipating being able to do online sales as well. And, Mary will be writing a blog talking about the producers she's working with and other cheese-related info.

I spent some time with Mary on Wednesday, and clearly this transition is emotional and exhilarating. Probably liberating as well. It's been a challenging five-plus years in the store.

"There's been a shift in the paradigm of how to do retail in this country. There's no central square for specialty selling retail," she says. "There's too much travel involved for customers to get cheese here, bread there, meat somewhere else. That's now at the farmers markets. So, we decided to bring our reputation and audience to the place they're already going."

So, look for the Palmers and TasteCheese at the Little Italy Mercato on April 17.


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