A Rhode Island Cheese Institution

 Casey and Adrienne D’Arconte, owners of Edgewood Cheese Shop

Edgewood Cheese Shop has become a destination for New Englanders seeking specialty cheese.

Wanting to open a shop filled with things they loved, Adrienne D’Arconte and husband Casey set out in 2015 on what she calls their “passion project”.

“I always say no one comes to cheese in a straight line,” D’Arconte says. “I’ve spent the majority of my career in other fields; I was a data analyst and my husband is a chef,” says Adrienne D’Arconte.

The couple, who live in the neighborhood where their store, Edgewood Cheese Shop, is located, also wanted to work close to home.

“Basically, my business plan was to find a place to rent, learn about cheese and open the store,” D’Arconte recalls. “I was and am still learning about cheese, as it’s a never-ending learning process. I love it on a taste level, and never get bored of eating cheese; that’s what’s wonderful about it. We get to be involved in something we love so much and help customers along the way.”

Small & Mighty

Edgewood Cheese Shop & Eatery is not a big operation; D’Arconte estimates the one room is just a couple hundred square feet with only one cheese case.

In addition to approximately 50 domestic and imported cheese varieties, the store offers small and large cheese boards with three and five cheeses; a meat board with four varieties; and a large charcuterie board that combines five cheeses and four meats. Catering size cheese and charcuterie platters are available in small (for 10), medium (serving 15 as an appetizer or seven as a meal) and large (for 20 as an appetizer or a meal for 10) sizes.

“When we first opened, we did have tables, but decided we needed the space for other things so these had to go,” D’Arconte says. “We sample a lot because we want people to love what they bring home and come back.”

With Edgewood Cheese’s Gift of Cheese program, customers can come in and pick cheeses to gift others or themselves three, six or 12 times a year.

“It’s about the fun,” D’Arconte says. “We work with a lot of local businesses, including local breweries and distilleries, to conduct cheese and beer or cocktail pairings. Along with teaching them about the items and sampling, we have fun. At these events, they can learn more about cheese, and we want people to explore and enjoy and try to home in on that.”

The couple tends to choose cheeses they love to stock the store. There are a range of types and styles that are switched up regularly, along with seasonal varieties.

“We’re a smaller operation, so we don’t have hundreds of offerings, but we get new cheeses in each week,” she says. “Because we rotate our selections, this can lead to disappointment if someone’s favorite cheese isn’t available.

D’Arconte enjoys when people try something new or discover a style they didn’t think they liked, since customers are regularly surprised during tastings.

“There are approachable cheeses in each category to pull people in and cheeses they haven’t tried before,” she says.

Best sellers are constantly changing and are dependent on what’s being sampled the most.

“Whatever people are tasting is what they’re happy to buy,” D’Arconte says. “Some people buy the same things all the time.”

Consistently stocked and perennial favorites include Hubbardston, MA-based Westfield Farm’s goat cheeses such as Cranberry Orange Round; Greensboro, VT-headquartered Jasper Hill Farm’s Bayley Hazen Blue; and Hook’s cheddar from Mineral Point, WI.

“I love St. Stephen Triple Crème cheese [from Four Fat Fowl in Stephentown, NY],” she says. “I love stories about the cheeses, and we try to find out as much as we can, then share this information with our staff.”

Although D’Arconte says Edgewood Cheese Shop is very much a neighborhood institution, there is a lot of support from customers far and wide. It is located in a diverse area and attracts customers of different ages—from teens to grandparents.

“We don’t just sell cheese, we sell a fun experience,” she says. “We want you to enjoy your time with us.”

D’Arconte notes that people come into the shop and apologize that they don’t know anything about cheese.

“I say that’s not important,” she says. “We cut to order so can provide cheese for one person or special events.”

Setting the Store Apart

Picking a favorite cheese is like picking a favorite child, D’Arconte notes; it’s just not possible.

“Right now, I’m eating harder cheeses for fall as well as a lot of aged Goudas and aged Alpine styles,” she says. “In the summer, I like fresher cheeses and lighter types.”

In its quest to support local cheeses and area companies, Edgewood Cheese Shop carries food and other items from local artisans. This includes crackers; jams; tinned fish; pickled items; cookies; chocolate; honey; and dried fruit. There also are supplies, such as wooden and slate charcuterie boards and cheese knives.

“We’re a fairly small neighborhood, and it’s about the connections,” she says. “We have a great food community, and the connections we make are what make our place special.”

In addition to beer and cocktail cheese pairings around town, Edgewood Cheese Shop partners with others for unique events, such as tarot card readings with the medium next door for Valentine’s Day.

“Our favorite way to advertise our place is through tastings,” D’Arconte says. “We do specialty tasting nights and fundraisers where we can get out and showcase the cheese.”

Prior to the pandemic, Edgewood Cheese Shop held regular cheese classes. It now offers a Cheese 101 class for 10 people or more at a time.

“We’re mostly going out to other businesses for pairing nights,” she says. “But there are a million things on our to-do list, and we’re always re-evaluating what’s working and what’s not and the best way forward. We are looking into being able to mail cheese for the holidays, for example.”

A Continuing Education

D’Arconte would like to be able to attend all cheese events, but because of the small size of the shop, she admits, “we can’t be everywhere”.

“I haven’t been able to go out as much as I’d like, but I have gone to some [events],” she says. “Although I can’t always get to the shows, I’ve done online tastings via Zoom with cheesemakers and attended online classes. Listening to cheesemakers is my favorite way to learn.”

D’Arconte also likes reading about cheese and tasting as much as possible.

“When we do our cheese classes, I see none of us know enough,” she says. “That’s part of what I love about it.”

In terms of trends, D’Arconte notes people are getting more adventurous in choosing their cheeses.

“When we first opened, people didn’t know what a cheese shop was or what to expect,” she says. “As we’ve been here, people are willing to try things, although price is sometimes a hurdle. We cut to order as much or as little a they want to work with their budget.”

She adds that part of what makes the cheese industry great is the people who came to it later and the diversity of experience and viewpoints. D’Arconte loves the welcoming feeling at cheese events and the camaraderie of the industry, which she says sets it apart. D’Arconte equates being in her shop as the adult version of being a kid in a candy store. “You may get overwhelmed so it’s our job to make customers feel at home,” she says. “People can get intimidated by a cheese shop but there’s no bad choices here; everything is awesome.”

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