by Kristen King
photography by Daniel E. Johnson
If you visit the new shop on Fuller Avenue, ‘The Cheese Lady’, you’ll experience a variety of gourmet cheeses, wines and much more. The owner of the recently-opened Grand Rapids location, Heather Zinn, has a passion for cheese and isn’t afraid to show it. “I have a new favorite cheese every week,” she says, with nearly 100 different types of cheeses to choose from. The store was originally opened by Kathleen Fagan Riegler in Muskegon, who started selling her cheese at farmers markets and retail stores. Without the intention of growing into a franchise, Heather explains, “demand is what inspired the growth of Kathleen’s business.” You can now find ‘The Cheese Lady’ locations in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo.
Importing from places all around the world including France, England, Netherlands, and even the cheesiest state of Wisconsin, the Cheese Lady will not fall short of your cheese expectations. They serve cheese categorized by the blues, flavored, semi soft, semi hard, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, cheddars, very hard, very soft, smoked, and ingredient cheeses. The hardness of the cheese depends on how long they have aged. Tanya, a staff member at the Grand Rapids location, describes their soft cheese saying, “you can cut it with a cracker, just dig in!” They also serve raw milk cheeses, which are assured to be aged at least 60 days. Popular cheeses at their shop include the Brie, Prima Donna Gouda, Irish Cheddars, Midnight Moon, and Potato chip Gouda.
One of the unique things about coming in to experience The Cheese Lady is that you can sample a variety of cheeses before you take your favorites home-unlike typical stores. Customer Dan Sytsma explains. “I came in today for the first time and I have to say that every cheese I tried at the counter was amazing. It was a painless experience that allowed my mother and I to try some new cheeses and some old favorites with a new twist. I am thoroughly excited to have this wonderful shop just down the road from my house and am looking forward to taking my wife and my dad here also.”
Although 85-90 percent of sales are derived from cheese, there’s more. You can find anything from cutting boards, cribbage games, french lady fingers, Nutella, a variety of nuts, cranberries, pastas, cookbooks, and T-shirts, among other items. Along with wines, they also offer local beers including Founders, Dragons Milk, Mad Hatter, Two Hearted Ale, and Thirsty Trout. Whether you are just enjoying a deliciously crafted meal or snack at home, The Cheese Lady has the ingredients for a good time.
Their holiday baskets were an instant success, packed with a variety of delicious goodies inside. Their exceptional trays have had positive responses as well. For the Valentine’s Day crowd, they had baskets that included their finest cheese, wine, and chocolate. “Who doesn’t want that?” Heather Zinn admits. You may prefer your cheeses salty or sweet, soft or hard, smelly or mild, or maybe you are entirely indifferent; let the staff of The Cheese Lady share their passion and expertise with you to create the perfect mouth-watering experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristen is a Marketing and Advertising student at Grand Valley State. You may find her around Grand Rapids at concerts, coffee shops, or leading worship for various youth groups.