Cheese + Provisions in Sunnyside
There is nothing more delicious & darling than Cheese & Provisions! Steve & Kim Duty are the owners and have an extensive background in the culinary world, the world of cheese & they are huge supporters of buying direct from cheesemakers to support these makers & provide a high quality, variety of tastes to our Denver community.
Support this local business! Cheese & Provisions / 2432 W. 44th Ave.
What neighborhood is your business in?
We are in Sunnyside, at the corner of 44th Ave. and Zuni in the Cobbler’s Corner development, along with Bacon Social House, Honeycomb Flowers, Intrigue Boutique and Eco Mountain Home Goods. Midnight Rambler Boutique just opened and an upscale Mexican restaurant has leased the final space.
Why was this neighborhood chosen for your business?
We chose Sunnyside for two reasons. The first is because we felt like it was an underserved market. There’s not a lot of retail, and especially food retail, in the neighborhood. We wanted to be a place where people could come get great cheese, but also eggs and bacon for breakfast or pasta and sauce for dinner without having to cross Federal.
The second reason was that we live nearby in Northwest Denver and really wanted to be part of what we think is going to be Denver’s next hot neighborhood, with an emphasis on neighborhood. We want to be the kind of shop that knows its neighbors and supports them. We looked at denser areas of the city, like Union Station and 9th & Colorado, but we didn’t think we’d have the connection with our customers that we wanted at those locations. We love telling the stories behind the artisans who make the products we sell, and we thought that was a better fit for a neighborhood location like this.
Nine months in, we couldn’t be happier with the choice. The neighborhood has been a HUGE supporter of the store and we know many, many customers by name. That’s what makes this all worthwhile.
What about the neighborhood jives with your business culture or your lifestyle?
We think Sunnyside is a great location. It’s full of families, young and old, who, it turns out, really appreciate good food. It’s a neighborhood with a lot of people willing to try new things and interested in learning about cheese and wine. We thought we would have to pull people from outside the neighborhood to support the business, but the local residents have been so supportive, we’re not sure that’s the case. Plus, as we mentioned above, we wanted a neighborhood location and you can’t beat Sunnyside. We’re active in SUNI, the neighborhood organization, and we support many charitable efforts in the neighborhood. We believe strongly in being a good neighbor.
Why are you passionate about your business or your community? What’s the story?
Oh, how much time do you have? Our “head cheese,” Steve Duty, has a 30+ year career in food. He’s got a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America. He’s been a chef and restaurant owner and manager. He spent time as a winemaker in Virginia, winning awards for his wines in national competitions.
But the hardest thing we’ve ever done was to start a sheep dairy and cheesemaking operation in Virginia. We like to say “you have to know what you are good at” and we are definitely better retailers than farmers. We only had the farm three years, but that experience brought us two things. First, we developed great relationships with other cheesemakers and those relationships mean we have access to some really cool cheeses that have never been sold in Denver before.
More than that, though, it gave us enormous respect for people who make their living making cheese. It’s hard, hard work, especially if you are raising the animals you milk. No one goes into cheesemaking to get rich. It’s always a passion project. So our mission is to give those artists an outlet for their products and to tell our customers the stories behind the people who make their cheese. It’s incredibly gratifying.
We commented the other day when someone asked about our cheese case, “Oh my goodness, there are a hundred stories in that case and they are all interesting.” From the woman in Montana who started that state’s first sheep dairy, to our friends at Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont who trained dozens of award-winning cheesemakers in that state before opening their own creamery to the cheesemaker behind America’s most award-winning cheese, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, who has been known to send us “secret wheels” of cheese.
We take that beyond the cheese though. We carry a lot of dry goods, things like jams and honey and pickles and sauces. The easy route would be to go to a local distributor, ask what they have and order that. But we want to support small producers. So we go to artisan food shows, we taste products, we meet the producers and then we order directly from them (again paying a little more), but that lets us bring new tastes to Denver and support small food producers. We have at least a dozen or more products where we are the first in Denver or Colorado to order from them.
What inspired the look & design of your store?
The products we sell are artisan or farmstead products. Most of the cheeses in our case come from small farms so we wanted to connect with the aesthetic of the farm. We have repurposed wood for our shelves and use lots of repurposed iron (e.g. tractors). The “vibe” is to feel like it’s traditional and authentic and represents the places where the products are made without getting too “country.”
We’re clearly biased, but we think the shop is one of the most attractive in Denver. We worked with small, local artisans on so many elements of it and had a terrific architect in Arrow B Architecture. We told them our vision, gave them a ‘mood board’ and they turned it into a design that exceeded our expectations. The antique-inspired ceiling fan system on pulleys is a customer favorite as are the rustic shelves and the bathroom pictures of us taking care of our sheep on our farm.
Education is also a big element of our business plan. We have classes and do special pairing sessions, but we also wanted to work it into the store’s design. So a large element of the shop is the wall behind the cheese case and the chalkboards around the store that explain the various types of cheeses, how to make a cheese plate, how to pair wine and cheese and a lot more. We want our guests to be comfortable asking questions. We have a strict “NO FOOD SNOBS” rule and the design needed to convey that. Can of Creative, our very talented graphic designer, made it a reality.