This weekend one of my regulars, Mr. C*, came into the shop. We chit-chatted about our dogs for a bit and when it came time to turn attention to the cheese, he said "What should I buy this week?" I gave him tastes of three newer additions to the case that I'm in love with, each one a home run (his words), and he left a happily cheesed up customer. While that was happening another guy was perusing the case unable to make up his mind. It was obvious to him that Mr. C and I knew each other to a degree where I could make these recommendations, this newcomer remarked on how cool it is to come into the shop and ask for whatever I think they should have. He wasn't buying cheese that day but promised that when he came back he would just buy a selection of my choice.
I don't think I was really aware of it before, but I have this same relationship with several regulars, and come to think of it, that's pretty freakin' cool. One regular always wants a Dinah's cheese and then three or four of whatever I'm currently loving, but she doesn't do super goaty goat cheese nor care much for any of my French tommes. Another woman spends more on cheese than most of us do on the rest our weekly groceries, and she has a wicked appreciation for stinky washed rinds, soupy Spanish sheep's milk torta's, and big, robust blue's. For her it's not so much about conversation, she simply approaches and I start giving her samples of every big hitter I've got. She moans and groans a lot in appreciation, then buys ample hunks of a dozen things to share with her friends.
I could easily go on and on, about the gentleman whose voice I could listen to forever, who will taste half a dozen things but only ever really buys truffle cheese and Caveman Blue. Or the awesome couple who want their taste buds assaulted by things so stinky and sticky I save the over-the-hill bits for them and they love it.
I know I sound like I'm boasting, and hell, maybe I am a little! But really my customers deserve just as many kudos for being so receptive to what I'm doing, and that's my whole point. This is exactly what I wanted when I decided to do this - the same personalized experience I used to have at my local cheese shop, but being on the other side of the deli case is WAY more satisfying, especially when one of my favorite regulars, who's been coming in since opening weekend, tells complete strangers "Just ask Sheri, she'll tell you what's awesome."
*Probably nobody cares, but just in case I'm not mentioning any real names