Aug. 08, 2012 - Issue #877: Corb Your Enthusiasm
A world of taste in suburbia
Everything cheese offers, well, everything cheese, and more
The suburbs can be a notoriously inhospitable environment for small businesses and, indeed, the more specialized a small business is, the steeper its climb to success. Everything Cheese co-owner Tania Hrebicek echoes this observation.
"Edmonton's south west has grown dramatically and the focus down here for shopping tends to be big box stores. It's a huge challenge for small businesses to succeed," she says, adding, "there is a vacuum of independent food stores in this part of the city and all the interesting stores tend to be downtown."
The city's suburban population continues to expand, and friends Hrebicek and Lydia Charalambakis made the decision to open a dramatically specialized shop in the suburban neighbourhood of Ramsay Heights. Their chosen specialty? Cheese.
"We both come from corporate backgrounds down east and when we left those jobs we wanted to do something aligned with food," recalls Hrebicek. "We wondered why it was so difficult to find specialty cheeses in a city of a million people. That's why we focused on cheese; we both love it."
"We're not trying to take away from existing cheese shops," she adds, "but there is such a gap on the south side of town."
Approximately 13 months elapsed between the first idea of opening Everything Cheese and its official unveiling in October of 2010. The two business partners made a concerted effort to purvey cheeses with impressive pedigrees. Hrebicek elaborates, "We didn't want to sell more recognizable cheeses like havarti or provolone but wanted cheeses with great lineages. For example, with Stilton, only six dairies in the UK make it the traditional way."
She notes that, prior to opening their shop, Hrebicek and Charalambakis spoke at length to owners of other cheese shops, who advised them to limit their selection to between 80 and 100 different varieties of cheese. Hrebicek laughs that, at first, it was difficult to pare down their initial list. "We both made lists of cheeses that we liked and had to drastically trim them down!"
The diversity of cheeses at Everything Cheese changes seasonally. "The quality of some cheeses really depends on what time of year you bring it in," Hrebicek reveals. This unique aspect of cheese is tied to factors such as seasonal forage quality for livestock and the animals' timing of peak milk production. Hrebicek adds that, to address this issue, they import cheeses only in small quantities. She remarks, "We don't want it to languish for months."
The clientele at Everything Cheese is extraordinarily diverse. "We have many repeat customers who are from Europe and work at the university. On that same note, we also have tons of novice cheese lovers," Hrebicek observes. She advises novice caseophiles to sample many different varieties.
"What people do and do not like is very personal," she states, "so we like people to try before they buy. We don't want you to go home with something you don't like."
She adds, "Don't decide you don't like something before you've tried it. Many people say they don't like blue cheese, but a Danish blue is not the same as Stilton. You can't really draw conclusions from one kind of cheese to another."
Hrebicek finds it difficult to buy grocery store cheeses now that her palate is so diverse. "There is a huge difference in taste, plus there are so many fascinating stories behind specialty cheeses. Some of these artisanal cheeses have been made since Roman times and the recipes and techniques have not changed. Cheese is an ancient food," she explains.
Education about fromage is a significant component of Everything Cheese's raison d'etre. "We want to be a resource for learning about cheese," says Hrebicek, adding, "We hope our clientele continues to grow, that we can have wine and cheese tastings, and do more educational events."
Ultimately, Hrebicek and Charalambakis dream of Everything Cheese persisting as a strong and viable destination for cheese lovers who reside not just in the south west but throughout Edmonton, for indeed, the cheese stands alone. vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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