In an unassuming shopfront just before Whatley Crescent intersects King William Street sits one of the prized possessions of Bayswater and one of my favourite specialty food stores: The Little Cheese Shop is demure in both name and dimension, but the knowledge and dedication of it’s staff, including owners Geoff and Emma, have found them remarkably well lauded. Backing up their great knowledge of cheese with a litany of events, tastings and collaborations, all of which which substantially size up the footprint of the cosy little store. We got together with Geoff to talk about the Little Cheese Shop’s philosophies, cheese, and Perth’s ever changing food scene.
“Before we first opened we were local to Bayswater and could see potential in it. Maylands had the structure plan and Bayswater was next. We thought we could set up and be ready as the area starts to find it’s feet in the way Maylands and Bassendean have. Bayswater is a little bit out of the way, but we love that, it means that people who want to come and see us, will come and see us. And so far they have.”
Geoff stepped into cheese after a long stint as a chef. He spent the next eight years at Blue Cow, selling cheese to other chefs and during this time noticed that retail spaces were increasingly desiring the sorts of cheeses which could be found on restaurant cheese boards, but the channels to deliver these products were not yet available to them. “I was selling cheese to Chefs during my time at Blue Cow,” said Geoff, "but those products weren’t necessarily able to go out into retail spaces. We saw people were loving the cheeses, but wanted to be able to enjoy and share them outside of a restaurant setting.”
Moving on from Blue Cow, Geoff is now able to bring his years of experience not only to his customers, but his network of relationships enable the Little Cheese Shop to source unique cheeses, some of which can’t be found elsewhere. “There are a few products we have which other shops sell, but then there are cheeses we source which are unique and different, and many of which Perth and even Australia have never seen before.” Said Geoff, “The currency of the Little Cheese shop is our expertise and our ability to source new and different products. We’ve built a lot of relationships with eight years in the cheese industry and twenty years as a chef, combining them we’ve found that we can source and offer something really unique. We’re at the point now where no one else in Perth is able to offer our level of expertise”
Whilst Geoff’s world is surrounded by cheese, he understands that to most of his customers he is still selling a specialty ingredient, which is why Geoff and his staff understand that their own opinions and expertise are as valuable to the company as their incredible cheeses. Said Geoff, “A lot of people go straight to the cheese, and kind of freak out. Even though it’s a tiny fridge with perhaps forty or fifty cheeses, they’re unlike a lot of what you’ll find in Perth, so those people usually come over to the counter and ask us to talk them through it all. People will come and say, ‘I have a dinner party,’ or ‘I want to cook something for my partner and finish it with cheese, even ‘We’re going to just sit on the balcony and drink a bottle of sparkling, and eat some cheese.’ And we’re more than happy to have that conversation with them”
“We have a pretty even split between people who just want a nice cheese with their glass of wine on a thursday night, and people who want say, a platter or a tower— Probably once a week, we’ll have someone come in and ask how we’re doing, say ‘I wouldn’t have thought a cheese shop in bayswater could survive.’ But three years in, we don’t really care— We’ve found our market in the people who are happy to open themselves to something different and unique, and we have such amazing customers, every one of our customers is amazing,”