Best friends and goat.sheep.cow owners Patty Floersheimer and Trudi Wagner have created a Charleston, SC cheese destination.
Even though Patty Floersheimer initially came into the cheese industry as a novice, it was her and best friend and business partner Trudi Wagner’s passion that has propelled them into being successful cheese shop owners.
“I used to have big holiday parties, and these were centered around wine and cheese,” Floersheimer says. “The events were such big hits, people loved them, and I loved to entertain.”
For these New Jersey gatherings, Floersheimer would visit Murray’s Manhattan cheese shop to pick out the cheeses and line up the wines.
“I would do a lot of research to get ready for these parties, so it was a learning process,” she recalls.
In the early 2000’s Floersheimer’s family opened a little wine shop in Allenhurst on the New Jersey coast that also featured cheese and charcuterie, which they operated until 2010.
Making the Move
It was that year Floersheimer moved to South Carolina and saw that as much as there were plenty of wine shops, cheese was not in the mix.
“Trudi and I teamed up and decided to bring cheese to the forefront here in Charleston,” Floersheimer says. “It was a business decision more than anything else to open a shop less aimed at wine and more toward cheese, charcuterie and gourmet items.”
The partners perfectly complement each other; Floersheimer says what one of them may not think of, the other one will.
“I can’t say enough about our fabulous partnership; it is so much fun and a delight to go to work every day,” she says.
She admits the opening of goat.sheep.cow was a mini miracle back in 2011, as Floersheimer had not been working for a time. She recalls sitting at the dining room table with her oldest daughter Suzanne, then 24, and Wagner the day before Valentine’s Day to decide on a name for the store.
“We messed around with names associated with cheese, and my daughter suggested incorporating animals used in cheesemaking,” Floersheimer says. “We wondered if anyone had done this before, and when we discovered no one had, we took ownership of goat.sheep.cow on the spot.”
The next day, Floersheimer set out on her bicycle in the heart of Charleston’s oldest neighborhood and came upon a tiny Church Street shop that was previously an independent insurance agent’s office. Just 545 square feet and 250 years old, the location was perfect, so the partners signed the lease on Valentine’s Day.
It was just about two months later that goat.sheep.cow opened for business, which is the gist of the mini miracle Floersheimer alludes to.
“Due to the area’s history, all business plans are subject to the approval of the city’s Board of Architectural Review,” Floersheimer says. “Other than paint and black trim, all of the changes we made were inside, so we breezed through approval. No one could believe it.”
She credits the location as well as the shop’s unique cheese selection for much of goat.sheep.cow’s success.
“The general area around the shop contains the oldest homes but the part of Church Street we’re on was a business area,” Floersheimer says. “The original buildings were constructed with shops below and living quarters above. It is considered one of the most charming streets in the South. It is manna from heaven for us because it’s a wealthy, walking neighborhood, which is ideal for our European-style shop. People come in every day to buy snacks of cheese and wine; we landed in the perfect spot.”
Both Floersheimer and Wagner’s German descent is evident in the ambiance of goat.sheep.cow’s interior. Looking closely at the ancient brick walls, one can see crushed seashells were used in the mortar. From the original hardwood floors to the rustic wooden beams above, with a basket of baguettes in front and a copper pot rack hanging over the cheeesmongers’ heads, this shop emulates those found in France, Italy or Germany.
“We tried to keep the rustic feel,” Floersheimer says. “You can see the appreciation of the interior on our customers’ faces.”
Expanding and Growing
Due to the success of goat.sheep.cow, the partners opened their second location in November 2016 up the peninsula in a gentrified area referred to as NoMo or north of Morrison. The store is surrounded by earth-friendly restaurants and retail establishments.
“The landlord made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” Floersheimer says.
Floersheimer and Wagner were more ambitious with the second location, putting in a café and wine bar. Although larger, this space is more industrial in appearance as opposed to historical, with more windows and natural light. However, this aspect of the business was closed during the pandemic and eventually ceased operating. Now 1,100 square feet of goat.sheep.cow’s 2,600-square-foot second location is subleased and shared with another eatery that has different owners.
“It looks like one business but it’s separate with two owners—one for the café and we own the retail side,” Floersheimer says. “So as not to compete with the restaurant, we stopped offering our daily sandwich in this shop.”
The original shop employs three full-time, while the larger second location has three full-time employees and another working part time.
She says what sets her businesses apart is that one of the owners is on site daily working side-by-side with the staff.
“The customers love to see us there,” Floersheimer says. “What also makes us unique is we work really hard to get different types of products into our cases.”
Orders are placed with a New York City purveyor, and cheese and gourmet items are flown in every week.
“Thursday mornings each week we go to the Delta air cargo terminal and pick up boxes of product that are flown from New York City to Atlanta to Charleston,” Floersheimer says. “We get in 400 to 1,200 pounds of cheese a week. It’s always a big scramble to get things others can’t. It is a lot of work being able to get more exotic product into our stores.”
Much like its interior, a lot of goat.sheep.cow’s cheeses originate from Europe. This includes Provolone Mandarone, a giant cheese aged about three years.
“So many people here haven’t heard of it,” Floersheimer says. “One chef client who has one Italian restaurant here and another in New York City took the cheese back to his East Coast site on a couple of occasions.”
Other coveted cheeses sold at goat.sheep.cow include Casa Madaio’s Canestrato, a Pecorino, and high-end fresh buffalo mozzarella from Italy.
The Church Street location serves a sandwich of the day, and both shops offer off-site catering. The latter was an afterthought when the first shop opened, but due to high demand and increasing customer inquiries, it became a key aspect of the business.
This centers around goat.sheep.cow’s charcuterie boards. “Our charcuterie boards are beautiful, and we’re proud of them,” Floersheimer says. “We often see them copied on Pinterest and websites.”
The partners go out of their way to source beautiful and unique platters for its charcuterie.
“We hunted for good looking platters, and couldn’t find anything, so we bought different wooden and slate boards,” Floersheimer says. “We loan them out as part of our charcuterie orders, with customers putting down a $25 deposit, which we keep if the boards aren’t returned. Fortunately, for the most part, we get them back so it has worked out well.”
In addition, goat.sheep.cow has a wholesale arm, working with restaurants in town.
“This is not a major part of our business, but we do a good amount,” Floersheimer says.
The partners would love to open more locations in the future, duplicating their flagship site, and know the valuable lessons they have learned thus far will go a long way in creating successful ventures.
“We learned to never go too big; if you have more space than you wanted initially, you will fill it like a woman’s purse,” Floersheimer says. “We don’t feel like we’re finished yet; we have more work to do.”