Last Stop: Cheese Shop – Top ACS Cheesemongers Share Their Secrets of Success

September 10, 2010


Cheesemonger Competition Display CaseModerator: Tom Van Voorhees, Rogue Creamery Cheese Shop (Winner 2009 Cheesemonger Competition with Steve Jones of Portland’s Cheese Bar)

Panelists: Nathan Aldridge, Murray’s Cheese Shop; Gordon Edgar, Rainbow Grocery Co-op; Megan Mullaney, Sickles Market and Carlos Souffrant, Zingerman’s

For obvious reasons, this was my favorite seminar and the one that will ultimately help take my job performance to much higher standards.

The four page handout is the Cheesemonger’s Handbook in miniature. There is so much information crammed into those four pages!! I keep a copy of it in my journal at the kiosk and have given copies to each member of my crew.

The seminar was held in the ballroom where the Cheesemongers’ Merchandising Competition had just concluded. The five display cases they had built were used for the first part of the seminar. We were divided into five small groups and one of the speakers took us on a tour of each case. Megan Mullaney of Sickles Market led our group.

The Merchandising Competition consisted of five teams from various Cheese Shops around the country. I don’t know how the teams were chosen and I arrived early and watched two teams give their verbal presentations. One was St. James Cheese Shop of New Orleans and the other was DeLaurenti of Seattle (DeLaurenti won the 2010 competition). (The five cases were designated by numbers but the teams wore logo shirts – I don’t know who the other three teams were.)

All five teams were given the same cheeses to use to populate their cases. Megan walked us through what was right and what was wrong with each case. The DeLaurenti case was head and shoulders above the others; it was easy to see why they won.

After the tour of each case the panel took over and I like to refer to it as “Dueling Cheesemongers”. We had four very strong and very passionate personalities. It was fun and informative.

Nathan Aldridge is the Murray’s Cheese employee who is converting the Kroger kiosks into Murray’s Cheese Shops. I was able to meet and chat with him after the seminar and told him about our kiosk. I was familiar with his merchandising techniques and philosophies

One bone of contention among the mongers was whether or not to put the price on the cards. Carlos Souffrant (Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor) puts the per pound prominently on the display card. His philosophy is “People need to realize that good food is not cheap”. Gordon Edgar (Rainbow Co-op) disagreed and felt the price on the weight tag was sufficient as rarely do people buy a whole pound of cheese. They all agreed that the new concept some stores use of showing a quarter-pound price was tacky and deceiving.

Carlos only cuts to order; Megan works in a store format similar to Fred Meyer and cuts and wraps a few pieces and displays wheels and large wedges; Gordon has all pre-cut and wrapped but will cut to order when asked; obviously Nathan follows our philosophy (or rather we follow his…).

They all hate plastic wrap but with the exception of Carlos, it’s what is used. If you man the kiosk all hours of the day, you can use cheese paper; otherwise you must use plastic.

Gordon believes in “cramming” – if it’s refrigerated, then it should have cheese covering it; but be aware of load limits. Always be aware of your airflow.

The smaller cheeses should be closer to the eye and they all like displays that I call “waterfalls” where the cheese seems to fall gracefully down the display. Fill spaces with cheese; don’t leave holes. Remove “onesies” – they just don’t sell.

Also, keep “Kid level” in mind and put merchandise that will appeal to kids at their eye level. Use above and below for merchandising items that go with cheese: crackers, jams, etc.

Rotation is important and they suggest re-wrapping cheese when it’s been sitting around. With room temperature displays, re-wrapping is needed more often (as I have learned first-hand).

Inspect every delivery and sample your cheeses often to make sure it is aging properly. Also, return cheese to the distributor when it’s not acceptable.

And most of all make sure your cheese is pretty because that’s what sells…


One Response to “Last Stop: Cheese Shop – Top ACS Cheesemongers Share Their Secrets of Success”

  1. Last Stop: Cheese Shop ? Top ACS Cheesemongers Share Their Secrets ……

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