National Cheese Day: The Brie-lliant Business Partnering with Lyons in 2021

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Calling all cheese lovers -find out more about how Lyons is supporting local with this ‘grate’ venture for owners this season!

You might have heard about our Discount Location Guide. This wonderful community incentive project provides owners with discounts at local businesses throughout the year. And aren’t there some treats in store for our wonderful customers this year! On National Cheese Day, we thought we’d hone in on The Little Cheesemonger. This quirky Prestatyn and Rhuddlan-based business have gone from strength to strength – read on to find out more!

What’s the Little Cheesemonger all about?

The Little Cheesemonger is a specialist cheese shop full of artisan goodies based in the beautiful county of Denbighshire, North Wales. The shop specialises in particular in Welsh cheese from north to South Wales, as well as fine British cheese and European cheese.
Created by fromagegirl (aka Gemma Williams), the Little Cheesemonger brings hand-selected food from people and places unknown to supermarkets. They also supply the best artisan delicatessen food – that’s usually found in places like London – to people in Wales and beyond. Gemma has worked with cheese and food retail in Edinburgh, Chester and Wales. She has served in some of the most exclusive cheese shops, sourcing the best artisan products for people with a passion for food.

What type of cheese do they specialise in?

Their emphasis is on gourmet cheese, sharing platters, fantastic food and luxury hampers. These are all fantastic gifts for birthdays and Christmas Day as well as astonishing cheese wedding towers. You can browse their selection of cheese and more or create your own bespoke hamper with their online delicatessen.
Gemma said: “We specialise in Welsh cheese and unpasteurized farmhouse cheeses. We’ve got a maturing room so that basically means when I buy my cheese, I can take it in there and decide to make it stronger or older, or more mature. I’m able to adapt the taste by deciding to keep it longer. A few kinds of cheese come in where I think ‘this is good, but if I whack a few more months on it, then it’ll be amazing.’

How has the business been during the pandemic?

“The secret ingredient is always cheese,” said Gemma, who not only survived the pandemic but also did the miraculous thing of launching a new franchise smack bang in the middle of lockdown. She said: “With opening the second shop in the pandemic, there was always a risk. It wasn’t easy as the new shop and new staff didn’t get any funding from the government, and we couldn’t furlough the staff. We just had to push ahead and be very careful. There were temporary sacrifices like the maturing room had to be shut down, but it’s still there waiting to come back to life. It’s hibernating!”

With the evident success of the Little Cheesemonger in Rhuddlan, Gemma had plans to branch out to Prestatyn High Street for months. Even the pandemic, which affected small local businesses deeply, wouldn’t keep this cheese lover from reaching her dreams! In December 2020, Gemma and the team opened the Prestatyn-based shop – just in time for the festive push. She said: “We had to be open for Christmas as we knew there would be no sales in January. We got the keys in mid-October and got everything turned around as fast as we could!”

Why did they decide to branch out to Rhuddlan?

Gemma said: “The Little Cheesemonger was so small in Rhuddlan and it was great for starting up. At the time, we were the only one in the area and there was no sort of cheese places around until you got to Chester or further afield. It was great for the first year or so, but then we soon realised in the second year that it was too small.

“It was just so busy! Prestatyn was a way for us to keep Rhuddlan going as there’s a fantastic loyal customer base there. But Prestatyn gives us the opportunity to do in-house tasting, maturing, store more items, easier to dispatch orders, make our sharing platters. It’s becoming so popular, and we don’t have space in Rhuddlan to do what we want to do. Especially at Christmas when we get so busy with hampers! Prestatyn is a great venture with more things to do.”

What’s the UK cheese industry like at the moment?

Gemma said the “mad panic” at the start of the pandemic was a difficult workspace – but the team pulled through, and thought cleverly about how to distribute their resources. She said: “There was a mad panic because the cheesemakers were still producing a high amount of cheese. With all the restaurants closed, there was a cheese mountain left over. There wasn’t a quick turnaround, and quite a lot of the cheesemakers had three options. To stop producing, quickly adjust to make much smaller amounts, or close completely.
“Then Jamie Oliver came on the scene shouting about his pals and was worried about them losing their businesses. I lost two of my Welsh cheesemakers last year and they haven’t come back. It’s a real shame as they made some beautiful cheeses. There have been some losses in the industry, unfortunately, but it doesn’t mean they won’t come back.”

What’s your favourite cheese?

“Gorgonzola! I have Italian genetics/ heritage so it means a lot. It’s always been my favourite and locally produced gorgonzola is nothing like the one you can buy in the supermarket.” Gemma and her wine-wingman Chris attended the first owners’ event of 2021 at Lyons Robin Hood earlier last month, bringing smiles in the form of samples and sips to many happy attendees. More events of this nature are on the cards this year, so keep an eye out on your emails for more info!

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Visit The Little Cheesemonger to find out more about Gemma’s amazing range of cheeses, gins, wines, preserves and snacks!

 

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