Specialty Food Magazine

Winter 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Winter Fancy Food Show Booth 2369 items, all cut to order, plus a small range of olives, crackers, honey, nuts, jams, and other condiments. A small menu of composed cheese-and-charcuterie plates satisfies peo- ple who want to eat on the spot, and f lyers remind shoppers that Conrow does catering and cheese platters. Alas, Reno's farmers markets and out- door events are not year-round and Conrow has to grapple with generating income in the fall and winter. Catering and classes, she hopes, will keep her business in front of people during the off-season. But the busy summer season provided proof of concept. "I'm quite surprised at the way people have taken so naturally to the truck," says Conrow. "They've never seen anything like it, but they walk up and get it right away." The average sale is $15 to $20 per person, comparable to what it was in her former shop. She has extra storage space in a ware- house and refrigeration in a friend's com- mercial kitchen. Seattle-based Roving Cheese Shop, owned by Alison Leber (above), has even less infrastructure. Essentially a pop-up cheese shop with regular gigs at a winery, a kitch- enware shop, a specialty food store, a wine shop, and other locations, Leber's enterprise benefits from her prior experience in cheese retailing—initially with her own Seattle shop and later with Beecher's Cheese. Enhanced Accessibility "I'm bringing cheese to areas where they don't have access to a cheese shop," says Leber, whose clients are all within an hour's drive of Seattle. Some are too remote for distributor deliveries or can't meet a distribu- tor's minimum order. For the wine shop, she drops off five selections every month, with portions precut, wrapped, and priced. All are hard cheeses that won't suffer if they aren't sold immediately. She discounts the retail price to the shop by 20 percent and pockets the difference. Once a month, she stages a pop-up at each client's location, bringing in 18 to 25 different cheeses and hand selling them. "I'll sell $350 to $500 of cheese in two hours," says Leber. She keeps her inventory at a friend's restaurant and orders both from distributors and directly from creameries. "I'm not looking to grow," says Leber. "It's a bit of a marketing tool for classes and consulting." Even so, she considers the return good for the time invested and says she could easily add venues and hire chee- semongers to man them. Apart from inven- tory, her investment was minimal: some soft-sided catering transport bags and a collapsible hand truck. Leber acknowledges that her efforts pencil out because the venue owners are friends who charge her nothing. In return, they get more traffic, more merchandise sales, and occasional publicity. Clearly the Roving Cheese Shop and other alternative cheese-retailing models are creating wins all around. Janet Fletcher writes the email newsletter "Planet Cheese" and is the author of Cheese & Wine and Cheese & Beer. PHOTO: AUDRA MULKERN PHOTO: WEDGE ON WHEELS 56 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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