BELFAST, Maine — To say Tony and Natalia Rose like cheese is an understatement. The two 25-year-olds are devoting their lives to the food. After years of spending too much money on cheese — shopping, cooking and eating all things cheesy — they decided to leave their jobs and their town to open shop.
The store, Eat More Cheese, opens Tuesday, April 17, in Belfast.
Right now the shop, on the backside of Main Street, smells like wood varnish while the counters dry, but soon it will smell like creamy brie and the salty cured meats that will fill the boutique.
“It’s a change from our careers, but it’s something we love. Some people like to kayak. We like cheese. I can’t see myself ever getting bored with it,” said Tony, who left his job as a manager of a medical office near Lewiston to pursue his dream. “You’ve got to do what you love.”
His wife, Natalia, saw a specialty cheese shop in Quebec and thought, “I love that.”
The couple settled on Belfast after visiting the coastal city for their first wedding anniversary four years ago. It hadn’t left their minds since. With a bustling co-op full of local food and a Main Street that shuts down for the farmers markets in the summer, Tony said their store will fit right in.
But the Roses don’t want a fancy cheese store — they want fun.
“I think cheese should be accessible. We want everyone to come in and try as many cheeses as they can,” Tony said.
“Cheese is snobby,” Natalia said, holding their 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, in the bright yellow store.
“Yeah. You shouldn’t have to know fancy adjectives to shop for cheese. ‘It’s good’ is all that matters,” Tony said.
Neither Rose has formal cheese education. They didn’t go to culinary school. But Tony reads a lot and has dabbled in making his own ricottas before.
“I eat a lot of cheese. That’s the best education,” Tony said.
Until the shipments arrive on Thursday, the shelves hanging on the yellow sponge-painted walls are empty, as is the refrigerator, which will be devoted to fresh cheeses. A counter with four barstools will act as a sampling bar where people can try different varieties, from aged cheddars to fresh goat cheeses.
“Cheese is amazing. Some cheese has been made the same way for thousands of years. It’s always milk, rennet, salt. There is a magic behind cheese,” Natalia said.
“Unless you’re lactose-intolerant,” Tony added.
“It’s true though. You’re eating the same thing your ancestors ate, and it’s made the same way,” Natalia said.
The store will start with about 40 cheese varieties and will stock some chocolate, crackers and cured meats and expand from there, Tony said. Many of the cheeses will be American, and they hope to find some local selections. The longer-term plan is to have beer and wine to pair with the cheeses, but that is at least a few months off.