The Cheese Store of Silverlake
I had previously worked at Beverly Hills Cheese Store. The owner and I wanted to try to start a place. We tried all over the city… Santa Barbara, and for whatever reason, we couldn’t pull the trigger. There were always certain problems with parking or obtaining specific licenses. We came down here one night, had dinner and on the way back, he said, “I can’t do this.” I said, “Well, I think I probably could” and so that’s what I did.
And you were right here?
Yeah, riding back from dinner in the car. I had always wanted to kind of build a little equity. You work for somebody or work for yourself; I wanted to work for myself.
Were you confident that you could open the shop on your own?
Yeah, I was pretty confident in the structure of this place. I was really quite confident in my system and I still am.
Do you live in the neighborhood too?
I don’t. But, I kind of researched it a bit and (heard) from somebody what was going on down here and, like you said, it’s changed a whole bunch since that day.
You must have so many returning customers.
Yeah, I do. There are a lot of regulars, yeah.
I heard that you were in a completely different business before the Cheese Store. Were you in the music scene?
I was in the music business for about 25 years, yeah.
Do you want to talk about that?
I was a tour manager, you know, and did a lot of touring, big time rock and roll bands and I did really well and had some good times and when my daughter was growing up, I kind of realized that, hey, it’s time to get off the road and come home.
So having your daughter made you change your career.
It was definitely my daughter. I mean, I was tired of the road. I had done it for a long time. It’s a young man’s game. I was getting older and my daughter was in high school and it was time to come home to be with her when she was growing up. I took a year off, went to volleyball games and PTA meetings. Then, I was working part-time in Beverly Hills (Cheese Store) for the holidays, you know, selling wine and all this sort of stuff. He (owner of Beverly Hills Cheese Store) knew I was in the music business. He was an ex-musician so when I would go in, we started swapping music stories. So one day, he said, “You want to come work for Christmas?” So I did that and in the middle of January he said, “What do you really want to do?” I said, “I really want to get out of the music business,” so he said, “Okay.” We started looking for places to do a store, all over the place… Valencia, Studio City, Santa Barbara, etc. Eventually it didn’t work out between the two of us but he’s still there and I’m here and he’s still a pal of mine.
What was the music scene like during the time that you were a manager?
It was heavy metal time, rock and roll time. I spent about eight or nine years with Van Halen; I did some work with Pat Benetar for a long time.
So you don’t really miss it so much?
I do miss it occasionally. It paid well, but I also miss the camaraderie. It’s like a big gang out there, like a boys club and we had a lot of fun. When you’re with the big successful bands, it can be a glamorous life… private planes, the best hotels, and the best restaurants. I was fortunate enough to be with a couple bands on that level.
You have so many specific products in your store. How do you choose everything?
I get samples here every day from different people that know about the store. They send samples or call. I have distributors that say, “I got some new stuff in this week. You want to try it?” I always like to try as much as possible. I like to have something new in the store so that when somebody comes in and says, “Hey, what do you got that’s new this week?”, I have some items to show them. It’s basically stuff that I like.
So you’ve probably tried most everything in the store?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I won’t put it up if I don’t like it.
What’s your favorite type of cheese?
Obviously, this is a tough question. I like a lot of cheese but I eat a lot of Blue cheese and I eat a lot of goat’s milk cheese, not to be specific but it’s like asking somebody, “Who’s your favorite child?” or something. I like them all… Primarily Blue and I like domestic cheese. I like to root for the home team and try to be as domestic as possible.
Do you get cheeses from around here?
I get a lot of cheese from California…. Also from Wisconsin and Vermont. The cheese industry is huge. You can get great cheese from all over the country.
How did you transition from the previous occupation to becoming a cheese monger?
When I went to work in the Beverly Hills Cheese Store, I really tried. I worked at it. I paid attention and I studied. I applied myself and I still apply myself. I still study and always want to explore new things and taste new cheeses and new experiences in the food world.
There’s not too many cheese stores around. Do you know people who own other cheese stores? Like, for instance, in New York, there’s Murray’s Cheese Shop and…
Oh, yeah, sure. We all know each other… Everybody knows each other.
Where do you see yourself in five years with the shop?
I want to open another shop close to here, probably right after the first of this year.
I don’t plan to retire. I’d like to open a couple more maybe, but I want to do another one to get my feet reestablished in a couple of different ways.
So you’re going to close this shop?
Probably, but not for a while. I mean, I wanted to do one more Christmas but I might do two more Christmases. I didn’t want to do this Christmas. I wanted to be closed by then but the deals fell through with the buyers, the landlord and all this other stuff. So I’m here and I’m not going anywhere for a while.
Good. I like it here.
Yeah, oh, yeah. I won’t be far; don’t worry.
I can’t say because I haven’t done the deal yet but it’s looking pretty good. It will be a very Silver Lakeish-like situation.
What’s most rewarding about your business?
What’s rewarding to me is that it’s a success and that it contributes to the success of the neighborhood and it contributes to the community. So I’m very happy about all that.