Saturday, January 31, 2009

Voila, the logo!

This is only the first of many, many versions, but I'm already getting terribly excited, thanks again to Courtney Blazon and Bonnie Fink:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Something real

Last night I got my first piece of mail for The Calf and Kid; my business license!

I know it doesn't seem like much, especially considering that it's only one of a long list of licenses and permits I need to acquire in a very short time period. But I still the happy dance all over the porch after I got it. It makes all the mental work of the past several months for something entirely theoretical feel like it's actually starting to happen!

Naturally a lot of other things are falling into place a little more quickly than I'd anticipated, but that's just how it happens sometimes. I contacted a real estate agent about a space I've had my eye on for a few months and learned that the price had just been reduced almost 12% and it comes with a very respectable TI allowance. So I figured I should get this ball rolling like a skeeball on amphetamines. I called my insurance broker and she whipped up a quote for me, and now rent and insurance are both far below my projected expenditures, yay!
I'm up to my eyeballs in meetings and appointments with the Fire Marshall, and inbetween I'm having dreams of floorplans and cabinets. It's totally insane but I'm loving every minute of it.

I'm also lucky enough to have many friends offering their varied talents to helping me and my new venture. Just this week my pal Courtney Blazon whipped up some fantastic Calf and Kid illustrations for the logo. They are exactly what I wanted and I can't wait for my other good gal pal Bonnie Fink to turn these works of art into a catchy logo, soon to come.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The thick of it

This week has been agonizingly hectic and left me feeling a bit bogged down in spreadsheets. Normally I'm actually a big fan of spreadsheets, in fact I often use them to make lists of things I need to get done and when in the rest of my life. Unfortunately the ones I'm buried in up to my eyeballs require me to postulate estimates and projections that I'm unsure of, and often ask for line items that I cannot even define let alone calculate. I'm a very smart person, and I'm getting beat by these stupid .xls files!

In the meantime I'm also getting to dip into the really fun part of all this: contacting distributors. I know that sounds really dry, but drooling over page after page of every kind of cheese imaginable and making lists of first, second and third tier inventory is just heaven to me. It reminds of being a kid poring over the Sears Christmas catalog, dog-earing every page containing a desired item. There are cheeses I'd long forgotten from days back in Brooklyn, creamy delights that were only available a few months of the year, wrapped in nettle leaves or smoked with chicory and hazelnuts. There is one I can't wait to try that's given a rind of ground espresso and lavender.

And of course let's not forget the all important cash issue. I'm waiting for my incredibly generous mother-in-law, who is for all intensive purposes my mom, to send along her gift of seed money. It's money that was intended as a down payment on a home, but seeing as we are nowhere near any position to purchase real estate any time soon, I'm putting it to good use as cheese shop funding. I need to come up with 30% of my start up costs, and her gift + my savings + cashing out an old life insurance policy will just about get me there. I may need to sell a kidney on ebay to reach the $30,000 I need, but dammit I'm going to make it happen one way or another.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I remember saying to someone several months back that this whole process was like a roller coaster ride; there's the long, arduous climb up the track, slowly chug-chug-chugging along, feeling like you're never going to reach the top. Then before you know it, you get a moment to pause, and you're off like a bullet, adrenaline pumping and screams whipping their way past your head as you uncontrollably plummet down.

I love love LOVE roller coasters. For me, the scarier the better; the more I want to turn and run like a coward after waiting in line for hours and it's finally my turn to go, the more I love every second of it. I love the leg-trembling endorphin rush afterward just as much as anyone else, but really I'm in it for the ride. All 2 minutes of it I feel like I'm the king of the world, soaring to heights humans simply aren't meant to go to, arms out and and mouth wide open screaming my lungs out all the way. Without even realizing it, I've started that crazed trip down the first slope, and I am loving it!

A few weeks ago I noticed a class at Culinary Communion on Northwest wine tasting. I must admit, as much as I know there is amazing wine being made all around this part of the country, I know little of it, and this incredibly affordable tasting course was a must, in the name of research, of course. I honestly did go into this with mild expectations of adding a few more wines to my inventory list, and possibly a bit of networking, depending on who else was there. Little did I know, chef and founder Gabriel Clayclamp himself was hosting the class, in his own living room! It was fabulous - intimate and cozy without feeling like we were intruding on his private space. Gabriel himself is wonderful - charismatic, approachable, funny, and just a fountain of information - everything you want in a fellow foodie/instructor. He walked us through a course of very surprising, eclectic wines, while we munched on tidbits he'd crafted for the event: popcorn with duck fat (just typing that makes me drool), red beet salad, handmade pickled mushrooms and okra, and most importantly, hand-cured proscuttio and soprasetta from his new side business The Swinery. Oh don't you worry gentle readers, I properly accosted Mr. Claycamp at the end of the evening to ask that I may retail these melt-in-your-mouth pork goods at The Calf and Kid. But in the meantime, hit the Ballard Farmer's Market for a bacon pop. Trust me.

Shortly after that fantasmagorical evening of far too much wine to be considered a "tasting", I rsvp'd for a free, informational legal session hosted by The Seattle Grassroots Business Association and Terence and Terence Law Firm. Turned out I was the only one who showed up, but that was great because I got to pick the brain of Thomas Terence about legal entities, forms, leases, advice, and is there any good Mexican food in Seattle? for an hour or so. He was great, and I left with a much clearer understanding of what an LLC really means.

Going back to my roller coaster analogy, I would categorize these events as the end of the climb, the nerve-wracking but mouth-watering in anticipation moments when you know you're so close to that release and you're thanking your lucky stars you haven't wet your pants yet. But you know it could still happen.

Today I met with my banker, for a very informal but preliminary face-to-face regarding what I would like to call Operation: Do I Have a Chance in Hell at a SBA Loan? The short answer is: yes, yes I do have a chance in hell. Well, it may not necessarily be hell, maybe something more like the 3rd circle, still purgatory but not that nice purgatory where you're just floating around. I may be chained to a firey wall and forced to have small piranhas eat me to death slowly, but to me that means YES!!! They may give me money - I'm not sure how much yet, I may still need to find an investor, but goddammit it's going to happen!

Then I proceeded to get into almost 3 accidents on the drive home because I couldn't stop staring and drooling at the retail spaces I've been eyeing for the past few months. They will be mine... oh yes... they will be mine...
Well, one of them anyway.

Monday, January 12, 2009


It was about a year ago now that the idea of opening my own little haven of cheese, wine and other accoutrements needled its way into my brain and took root. I sat on it for a few months, did as much research as I could on the 'ole internet, and the longer I let it simmer the more I was absolutely compelled to make it happen.

Come June, during a trip to New England, I held an informal meeting with Keith Dickey of Butter's, a modest cheeseshop so fabulous it doesn't even need a website. I left with several new ideas, informational gems, and about $100 worth of delicious cheese. I came home, started clumsily plunking out the first draft of my business plan, and wondered how the hell I was going to make it all happen.

I took the rest of what I figured for my last summer of freedom off from planning, and re-planted my nose to the grindstone in the fall. I taught myself the in's and out's of licensing, insurance, taxes, more taxes, the importance of not being the one who figures out taxes, compiled lists of to-do tasks, supplies, inventory, made timelines, and tore my hair out doing all of it. Finally the inevitable visit with a counselor at Seattle SCORE set me straight on several things, and I was back on the fast track to the wacky, wild wonderland that is financial spreadsheets. It is soooo much fun.

In the meantime I had the pleasure of meeting Strom Peterson of Edmond's The Resident Cheesemonger, for a Pacific Northwesterner's take on the whole shebang. This time I left with plenty of new, improved ideas, as well as many of the specifics I needed to flesh out another huge chunk of my financial forecast.

Being a bit of a literary hound, and a perfectionist, the rest of the business plan has been edited and re-edited dozens of times, which I realize is silly because nobody who reads it is going to care if I have run-on sentence here or there, or if I can't come up with so many other ways to say "cheese" without sounding like a drunken Frenchman. So this beast that I've been laboring over off and on for the past 6 months is nearly slayed, and that brings us up to speed.

Now back to the best part of this foray into delicious things of the grape, grain and fungus:

Martino Old vine Malbec 2004 - this wine makes me think of a beautiful flapper, eyes closed, slowly pulling a silk scarf from around her porcelain neck with a tiny smile. It is seductive, heady, warm and medium to full bodied. I always hate it when people call a wine "unpretentious", but I'll be damned if that isn't an apt description for this one. Single vineyard, 83 year old French Malbec clone grapevines are like an Italian grandmother; beautiful, wise, and something you just want to melt into the bosom of. This will be wine #23 on my inventory list.


Friday, January 9, 2009


This tale, of how I came to the decision to open my own cheese shop, will probably take more than a few posts, but I will try my best to embrace a little brevity.

During our first year in Seattle, I found myself skipping through The Seattle Cheese Festival like a kid in a candy store. There is so much amazing cheese being made out here! I had never known what a hot spot this part of the country was for cheese making, but once I did I was even more in love with our new home. Soon after the festival, I was searching for cheese shops in Seattle, sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that there must be a dozen of them. Strangely enough, I was wrong wrong wrong, but at this point I was but a disappointed consumer, a committed patron, nowhere near any thoughts of becoming a business owner myself. It wasn't until I made a visit back to the East Coast, entered a local cheese shop, and just about came to tears at the wall of stinky cheese odor that I realized just how much I missed the cheese shop experience as a part of my daily life.

I came back home to Seattle and wondered why on earth nobody else had taken advantage of this market rich with local artisan cheese and dedicated foodies. This city has plenty to offer behind the cheese counters of grocery stores and gourmet food markets, but they cannot fill the void that exists for a dedicated fromagerie like the one that fed my passion for cultured dairy back in New York. So now I'm knee deep in business plans and financial forecasts and biting my nails over real estate, and I'll be blogging every last detail of it here. Lucky you!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Inspiration, Inception, and The Iceman

If I'm truly honest, I'd have to say my love affair with cheese started about 6 years ago in a poorly stocked bodega on the corner of N. 7th St. and Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn, NY. Although the deli boasted old signage of Boar's Head meat and cheese products, I had never in my two years of frequenting them for beer and cigarettes, ever seen anyone actually purchase anything from the long-abandoned perishables counter in the back.

Myself and the rest of the L train popped in after work for beer and smokes, and while I waited in a line easily a dozen people long, a very tall, stricking young man meandered aimlessly around the back of the store looking slightly lost. He sort of looked like The Iceman, but minus the scary tan. Moments later the usual din of the deli was cut sharply by this man's incredibly thick, unmistakably German accent imploring of the entire shop, "Excuse me, but eez zere zumone to cut zee cheeze?" Nobody said much of anything, and he flapped his arms, frustrated and alarmed at the lack of customer service. "PLEEZE! Ken zumone help me to cut zee cheeze?!?" A few of us smiled quietly to ourselves, and by the time he started in on round three of his cheese-slicing plea I was taking my change and heading out the door, giggling uncontrollably to myself. Naturally this incident made for a rousing story told many a time over drinks with friends, and over time I grew to name this innocently misdirected man Hans. Hans, who was simply looking for some cheese so Hans can has cheeseburger.

A year or so later, my neighborhood was graced by the birth of The Bedford Cheese Shop, and my life was changed forever. I still remember clearly the first time I entered the store; they had a small but not insignificant sign on the door that said "Warning: it smells like France in here". I wondered how much rent they would charge to let me start sleeping there. Then I walked in, was offered a taste of something gooey and delectable, and the rest, as they say, is history. Hans, wherever he may have been at the time, finally had someone to cut the cheese for him, and alas, so did I.

I spent the better part of my last two years in Brooklyn with my drooling face pressed against the shiny glass cases of cheese at the Bedford Cheese Shop, or as I would later name it, Heaven. It wasn't long before the employees knew Mr. M and I by face and love of cheese every time we raced in for a splurge de fromage. I'd love to say that they knew us by name, but then again I didn't know them by name either. In fact, the only things I knew by name other than the sacred 25 yr. aged Montgomery Cheddar, were their goats Mary Kate and Ashley, whom they had several photos of behind the counter. So in a nutshell: cheese + me + awesome Brooklynites = happiness that carries far, far, far beyond our little neighborhood off the East River.

Flash forward several years. We've relocated to the Pacific Northwest, and we love love love it. Food in general is astounding, amazing, and yet somehow lacking that, oh I dunno, je n'est sais quoi? Oh yes, a CHEESE SHOP! So into this soggy town I shall march, french loaves swinging like a modern-day Yojimbo, and I will bring this land of Seattle the experience that only a proper fromagarie can provide, and I shall dedicate it all to Hans. Well, maybe.