Why Rochester needs more shops like the Little Bleu Cheese Shop

If you have never had the opportunity to stop into the Little Bleu Cheese Shop on South Avenue, you’ve been missing one of Rochester’s hidden treasures.  I love what I do at my office, don’t get me wrong.  However, I spend the majority of my time on e-mails and telephone calls, often communicating with people I’ve never met.  The world has become much less personal than when I grew up.  That’s why I love this neighborhood cheese shop where I get to talk with the shopkeeper and learn about the people and businesses I support.

I love Wegmans, but there is something so warm and wonderful about stepping in to a neighborhood shop and being greeted with “how are you this week?”  “How’s the family?”  How’s your office?”  In the world of impersonal communication, I get a real handshake or hug and know that the people at the Little Bleu Cheese Shop genuinely enjoy their customers.

Over the past year, I’ve learned the story behind the Little Bleu Cheese Shop.  I am so happy for the very small role I play in being a regular customer.  Anne, the owner, tells me about the creameries she visits to source her small batch artisan cheeses. She lets me know about the many families who earn a living because there are customers who appreciate the art of food and look for unique products that can’t be found at the chain grocery stores.  Ask her about some of the products she carries – granola, crackers, caramel, cured meats – she’ll tell you about each business she buys from.  Out of hundreds of vendors carrying the same products, she hand selected these products for the quality and care that went into making each item.  I feel like I am getting a batch of Grandma’s homemade secret recipe.  I’ve never met these business owners, but I feel connected to them like distant family members.

Many of these small artisan food businesses started as a “Plan B” when corporate America downsized the Western New York workforce.  Rather than sit home lamenting how hard it is to find a job in this economy, these entrepreneurs put it all on the line to find a new way to feed their families.  I am proud to support their efforts.

Other businesses started in pursuit of a passion or a dream.  Entrepreneurs took a risk that they could make a living doing something they love.  Another thing I am proud to support.

I still shop at Wegmans and the Public Market.  I occasionally buy cheese and unique food items from these businesses.  But I actively choose to do some of my shopping at the Little Bleu Cheese Shop and other small artisan and craft specialty shops.  They can’t stay in business without customers.

I like having a connection with a shopkeeper – someone who knows me and genuinely appreciates my business.  I like being part of “the neighborhood” where from time to tome the owner says, “I set aside something for you.  I know how much you love it.”  I like that they support my other small business clients and spread the word about what I do for people who could benefit from my services.  I, too, am a small business.

With the report that one in three in the City of Rochester is in poverty, and the continued egress of corporate America from Rochester, these businesses are exactly what we need.  Need a last minute holiday gift?  Stop into the Little Bleu Cheese Shop and get an incredible gift and make a difference in the community around you.  It is a gift that lasts throughout the year.