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Just one look in the fridge …

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  • | 1:08 p.m. November 30, 2012
  • Arts + Entertainment
  • Eat + Drink
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That is all it took for Louise Kennedy Converse, a.k.a. Cheese Louise, and Parker Converse II to conclude cheese was in the future. Living in the Boston area and looking to move to Sarasota, Louise and Parker were seeking a new business idea that could be implemented in the Sarasota area.

With eclectic backgrounds in political science, the arts, media and business from which to draw, both were seeking a shared passion for their new enterprise. Opening the refrigerator one day, a chance observation became a new direction in their business journey. Fourteen different types of cheese, independently purchased by each, hit them right between the eyes.

Cheese! “We both love cheese!” exclaimed Louise. A course was set.

With a passion for cheese and an agreed-upon business direction, Louise began to do her homework. She needed to learn the ins and outs of the cheese business. Was there a need for a proper cheese shop in Sarasota? How could something like this be done?Formaggio Kitchen, a 30-year institution for gourmands located in Cambridge, Mass., became “ground zero” for research and a potential model for things to come. Constructed in 1996 as the first of its kind in the United States, the Formaggio cheese cave offered a wide, ever-changing assortment of cheese products for exploration and education. However, Louise knew running a cheese shop required more than just providing great-tasting cheese. So off she went to Europe, exploring the cheese shops in Scotland and England with an extended amount of time spent in London. Her hunches were confirmed. She loved the experience. “It just felt right!”

With a commitment to the business idea and a significant investment in time, money and experience, the goal of opening a shop in Sarasota was set in motion. After more research, intensive training and continued reading, the foundation of The Artisan Cheese Company began to take form. With the help of Ian Black, the Converses located the perfect spot for their dream. A master craftsman, Parker Converse began planning the renovation while Cheese Louise continued her research, and together they embarked upon their shared vision.

The Mission: Giving Cheese a Voice

Even though the Artisan Cheese Company is less than a year old, it creates a sense of tradition and longevity. Brightly lit, warm and inviting, with a beautifully crafted community table built by Parker, the atmosphere is relaxed and unassuming. By design, the customer is not immediately faced by a case of unfamiliar-sounding names of cheese. Instead, the shop is open and invites one to step in, relax and browse. Offering a wide assortment of domestic and imported cheese, there is a story behind each wheel. Just ask---Louise’s knowledge of the producer, their cheese-making process, the taste and texture and the perfect accompaniment all complete the story before the purchase is made. Value-added service personified! Continuing to give cheese a voice, the Artisan Cheese Company recently began to offer a series of Cheese 101 courses. The courses are designed to be educational, social and entertaining, offering tastings across a range of cheeses and an accompaniment of wine to match the tastes.

It is Just Cheese

Cheese, like wine and recently craft beer, has a wide assortment of tastes, styles, grades and regional characteristics. With so many variables, it is easy to become overwhelmed or fall into a rut of buying and tasting the same types of cheese all the time. In fact, buying cheese, like wine, can be intimidating to the uninitiated.  Fortunately for us, the Artisan Cheese Company can demystify the buying experience and provide us an opportunity to learn, explore, and discover new tastes and textures. As Cheese Louise says, “There is no need to be intimidated. It is just cheese!”

The Artisan Cheese Company

1310 Main Street

Sarasota, FL 34236



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