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Cheese People are Just Good People

Scardello

ScardelloIn preparation for opening Cheese+Provisions here in Denver, we have been traveling the country visiting other cheese shops for inspiration.  So far, we’ve hit San Francisco, L.A. Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., Ann Arbor, Boulder, Huntington Beach, Oakland, San Mateo, Providence, and Philadelphia.

At every stop, I’ve found cheesemongers happy to chat and share their experiences.  But I’m especially indebted to one person – Rich Rogers of Scardello Cheese in Dallas.

I met Rich at a seminar in San Francisco, and he invited me to spend a couple days in his shop to really dive into what it takes to open a cheese shop, so of course, I jumped at the chance.

To me, opening a cheese shop is a pretty easy concept to understand.  Yet, every time I meet with a potential banker or city planner or zoning attorney, they ask if I’m going to make my own cheese and sell it. I patiently explain that I’m going to purchase artisan cheese from farms around the country and sell it.

That persistent disconnect left me struggling with a deficit of practical advice since most of my local experts might be experts in their fields, but they clearly weren’t experts in cheese shops.

Enter Rich.  He basically said “Ask me anything,” and that’s exactly what I did.

  • What kind of equipment should I buy?
  • Where should I buy it?
  • What kind of POS system do I need?
  • What are you paying in rent?  In insurance?
  • What does your health department require?
  • How did you finance your operation?
  • How much revenue do you generate each year?
  • What were your biggest mistakes?

Rich was incredibly open and forthcoming.  He shared his personal experiences and helped extrapolate them to my situation in Denver.  Over the course of those two days, I picked up hundreds of tips, big and small.

I was particularly interested in spending time with Rich because he too had trained at Zingerman’s and I wanted to see how he had operationalized that training.  (He’s done a terrific job, by the way, of incorporating their tools into his business and his store’s culture.)

It reminded me of what I learned all those years ago when we were starting our sheep farm and dairy.  The U.S. cheese community is a small world, but instead of approaching each other with a competitive attitude, they are quick to offer friendship and assistance – just like the brewing community here in Denver.  And it makes me really happy to be back in the world of cheese.

Rich and his team at Scardellos validated a lot of my assumptions, corrected some of them and raised issues I hadn’t even starting thinking about.  In short, he did a lot to reduce my stress level.

Once I’m established and am bringing fine artisan cheese to Denver, I hope to pay it forward by helping some other budding entrepreneur. After all, a rising tide floats all boats, and the more I can help new cheese entrepreneurs, the more Americans will know fine cheese!

So thanks, Rich.  And if you find yourself in Dallas, you’re missing out if you don’t stop by Scardellos.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have time to take one of his awesome classes.  If not, maybe you just grab a great sandwich or some cheese to go from some really friendly cheesemongers.

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