Thin Blue Line
93B Roncesvalles Avenue
The old saying goes that “good things come in small packages”. Nowhere is that more true than the tiny little cheese boutique that opened on Roncesvalles Avenue last fall. Taking up half of a standard storefront and with maybe 100 square feet of space for customers, it’s a tiny little jewel box of carefully chosen items.
Breads are displayed in the window, with baguettes artfully filling a small shopping cart, while the shelves offer up oils, vinegars, crackers, preserves and olives. The piece de resistance, though, is the small glass cooler full of one of the most well-conceived selections of cheeses in the city. With space at a premium, owners Marc Rozender and Beret Kirkeby have to choose their selection very carefully.
Rozender explains that while their focus is on Canadian cheeses, they have a combination of standards and then rotate about 20% of the selection based on availability (some cheeses are seasonal), and what they think their customers will like. They deal with suppliers and travel to Montreal occasionally to the big cheese markets to see what’s new.
Their personal favourites are Chevre Noir from Quebec and BC Salt Spring Island soft goat cheese for Rozender, and Tomme de Gaston for Kirkeby; a little known sheep cheese from Oxford Mills ON. Their cheese case is full of an array of styles from Quebec from a number of blue cheeses to Douanier, a Morbier-style cheese with the thin blue line of ash in the centre. Also present are a variety of Ontario cheeses ranging from the outstanding products from Monforte Dairy to the exceptional goudas from Thunder Oak.
Explaining the selection process for including some European cheeses, Rozender says, “There are still some European style cheeses that can’t be beat. Like a great Comte for example or Parmigiano Reggiano. If we can find a Canadian cheese to fill a spot, we will carry it. Sometimes it’s a lot of foot work to find new cheeses, some styles don’t even make it out of their respective province because they need an expensive federal license.”
They work on the same principle for the gourmet food items in the shop, preferring to carry local or at least Canadian items first and foremost. They’re also open to suggestions, and love to hear about great local products their customers think they should carry.
The Roncesvalles neighbourhood has welcomed them heartily, with customers stopping by to thank them for bringing good cheese to the ‘hood. Roncy has many great Polish delis, bakeries and grocery stores that are a joy to shop at, but anyone wanting a chunk of French, Italian or Quebec cheese had to head out of the area until Rozender and Kirkby opened their shop.
The pair seem to love the neighbourhood right back and lived in the area a year before opening their cheese boutique. A change of jobs for Rozender inspired the decision to open a store, where a background in restaurant kitchens, a French family and a relationship with a cheese supplier from his restaurant days was all the inspiration and background he needed to create an overnight success.
He admits that they’re on the verge of growing out of the small space, but have no plans to move just yet. And when they do move, it was absolutely have to be in the same neighbourhood, to keep their clientèle happy and to ensure that Roncesvalles remains a place where people can get good cheese.