Notable Edible: North Falmouth Cheese Shop
What’s in a name? For a business, it’s everything. North Falmouth Cheese Shop, for example, tells you where they are and what they sell. For Jennifer Dwyer and her sister, Christine McCormic, even the sign supplies distinct recognition.
Jennifer Dwyer grew up in Pepperell, Massachusetts, came to Cape Cod for a summer that lasted four years, and always knew she’d return. The intervening years saw Dwyer working her way through the restaurant business serving, bartending and managing enough of them to know when the time came to open her own business, it wasn’t going to be a full-service restaurant.
Upon returning to the Cape with her husband Ken, she searched Craigslist under “Wine and Cheese”, and up popped The Chatham Cheese Company. Dwyer admitted to owner Heather Cantin that her ultimate goal was to open her own cheese shop.
“I told her not to worry because it’d be way on the other end of the Cape!” Dwyer laughs. Dwyer went on to work two summers for Cantin, and couldn’t be more thankful for the education. “She introduced me to so many cheeses and how to explain them to customers,” Dwyer recalls. “It was kind of like going to cheese school. She was my cheese angel.”
While driving around in Falmouth, one building on Route 28A, next to The Silver Lounge, kept catching her eye for over a year. “It was calling to me,” states Dwyer. Overgrown bushes were obscuring the front of the structure that had been shuttered for two years since a consignment shop had closed its doors. Originally, the building was the southeastern distribution center for Hood dairy products. The life of a commercial building comes full circle with the opening of the North Falmouth Cheese Shop. For Dwyer, it was the perfect location. Plenty of space in the shop and parking outside were two big plusses. A lack of competition in the area convinced Dwyer to take the leap.
“For people who want to pick up a few things, they would either drive into downtown Falmouth or Roche Brothers in Mashpee,” Dwyer explains. The landlords cleaned up the facade with new foundation plantings and repaved the horseshoe drive out front. A full-on assault of familial sweat equity, and Dwyer and McCormic were open for business on Memorial Day weekend of last year.
The North Falmouth Cheese Shop has cheeses from all over the world, but they strive to source as many local products as they can, including Prufrock, a cheese from the Gray Barn Dairy on Martha’s Vineyard. In fact, many of the cheeses offered come from within the boundaries of New England. American cheese makers have been studying the processes to make all different types of cheese that were once only imported. “They’re starting to duplicate them right here,” Dwyer claims.
At the height of the summer, the shop will carry nearly 50 different cheeses. Yet, the clientele can’t live on cheese alone. Therefore, the shop also carries a wide range of items from crackers and spreads, to pastas and sauces, sweets, sodas and coffee. Dwyer and McCormic actually take into consideration items area shops sell so as not to duplicate them and, in turn, create their own niche of higher quality staples. As Dwyer rationalizes, “We’re all small businesses. So, we try not to step on any toes.” They also support area businesses by selling their products at the cheese shop, including a line of gluten-free baked goods from White Lion Baking Company in Mashpee and breads supplied by Maison Villatte in Falmouth. Fans of Pies A La Mode, the popular Falmouth eatery that closed a while ago, will be heartened to hear that their sweet and savory pies can be found at North Falmouth Cheese Shop.
Along with the local items comes customer service that’s second to none. When the 90+ year-old World War II veteran pulls up on a day that the shop is closed, Dwyer is there to hand off the three jars of pasta sauce he’s seeking. There’s a file of index cards at the register so regular customers need not remember the name of that tasty goat cheese or which feta they purchased weeks prior. As Dwyer says, “All they have to remember is their name.”
Now, about that sign out front. Drivers approaching from the north won’t notice anything amiss. However, arriving from the south you can’t help but see that the image is upside down. Dwyer tells the story, “It was 11:30 at night. We were just a few days from opening, and I was really, really tired!” Since she was a kid, Dwyer had always wanted to paint the sign for her own business if she ever opened one. Here was that opportunity and she simply flipped the sign over when painting it. And when the error was finally discovered? “I started sobbing,” she can now laugh. It has become one of those kitschy, charming details that make a place unique. Dwyer is hard at work on the new roof sign that’ll further identify the North Falmouth Cheese Shop. As she exclaims, “This one’s only one-sided!”
North Falmouth Cheese Shop
402 North Falmouth Highway,
508-356-3666 / northfalmouthcheese.com
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10:30-5:30 pm, Sunday 11am-4pm, closed Monday