With plenty of knowledge, enthusiasm and artisan cheeses behind the counter, Cheese Etc, The Pangbourne Cheese Shop, has been named Cheese Counter of the Year, sponsored by Le Gruyère AOP, at the 30th edition of the World Cheese Awards, held at Tobacco Dock in London on Friday 17 November.
Having already made their mark in last year’s competition, coming joint-third overall, owners Ali and Jen Grimstone-Jones impressed the judges with how far they’ve developed the business in the past 12 months. The shop has been refurbished with a lighter, brighter colour scheme and their new branding, while the business has also expanded into new areas, such as supplying local pubs and restaurants, developing a cheese wedding tower business and online sales.
Judges made particular note of the different ways employed by Cheese Etc to sell its cheese and keep its 100-strong cheese counter moving, saying “the cheeses are clearly displayed and grouped together, making navigation around the counter easy, all helping Ali and Jen to stock a big range and keep the cheese in excellent condition.”
Brimming with character and personal touches, “from the mouse painting by a local artist to a 'cheese of the moment' blackboard and a John Keats poem with a cheesy twist”, customers are welcomed warmly and encouraged to try the cheeses and expand their cheeseboard’s horizons. Jen buys directly from cheesemakers whenever she can, regularly driving down to the West Country to buy whole truckles of farmhouse cheddar and building up excellent relationships with cheesemakers in the local area.
Cheese writer Patrick McGuigan, head judge of the Cheese Counter of the Year competition, explained:
“Independent retailers can find it hard to compete against the big supermarkets on the high street, but Cheese Etc is a shining example of how small shops can be successful if they play to their strengths. Lovely customer service, a fantastic line up of artisan cheeses in tip-top condition and plenty of knowledge and enthusiasm behind the counter all create a rather special experience, so it gives us great pleasure to shine a light on these fantastic independent retailers. If only every high street had a cheesemonger like this, the world would be a better place.”
Ali and Jen Grimstone-Jones collected the trophy at the World Cheese Awards 30th anniversary reception, held at Tobacco Dock in London on Friday 17 November. For more information, visit www.london.tastefestivals.com.