As you’ve probably heard, if you’re this deep on our website, we closed down our original location on Woodward Heights a couple weeks ago. Personally, this crusty old monger wasn’t planning on shedding any tears, but it does give an opportunity to remember how far we’ve come as a group and a company.
I quit my dairy buyer job at Plum Market in December 2017 with no plans besides a bar mitzvah to go to. I spent the weekend pretending I hadn’t quit and talking about my job in the present tense with relatives I didn’t feel like telling the whole sordid story. After considering any number of non-cheese-related things to do with myself I got a hot tip. My favorite local small-batch, artisan herbalist (or “dealer” if you prefer) told me that just down the street from him things were happening in the old industrial buildings and he had seen an article in the local paper about a cheese shop joining them. When I read more; all signs were pointing to this being a potential dream job, and I excitedly fired off an application. After trying not to freak out when I didn’t hear back within hours, I got a call from a gentleman with a not-very expressive voice (Will) asking me about my favorite cheese, some other related questions, and, finally, when could I come in for an interview.
Zach and Will weren’t just looking for someone who knew cheese, they were looking for someone who wouldn’t expect too much from them right away. The parts of the interview that weren’t about food or past jobs were about how it wouldn’t be many hours and they had no idea what would come of all this, just to be flexible and ready. None of that scared me off, it was worth even getting an extra part time gig to fill in the gaps. Dream jobs and fancy cheese shops don’t just come around every day.
After a number of weekends squeezing around those two I finally got used to the unconventional space. I was used to working in grocery stores before that; with a lot of room to stretch out. Places with procedures, hierarchies and uniforms. It was downright exciting to be in a store where the focus was on caring for the cheese, and giving an experience to the person in front of you. No drama, no bs, just the food.
I’m not going to miss how hot that room got in the summer and how cold it was in the winter. I’m not going to miss the slippery floors. What I will miss is that feeling of doing things by the seat of our pants, of being a part of something exciting and new where there was no set checklist or procedure to follow. Where success was about making people happy with food like grandma Eva taught me, and not about following the rules.
I’m writing this inside the Detroit store; it’s air-conditioned, and the floor doesn’t turn into an ice rink when a drop of water hits it. Things are different now; we have a team instead of just ZWZ. We ended up with a few checklists, procedures, and even an employee handbook. It’s still a dream job, with even more perks than before, and where I can even have a little time to write my little blog uninterrupted while our fine team handles customers. By every objective measure things are better now, and I can’t say it doesn’t feel like it. Still, when I think of our first location I won’t remember the wild temperature fluctuations or the floors. I’ll remember the sense of community that grew from our guests and fans. And, I’ll remember that feeling of excitement, of being a part of something new, undefined, and poised to grow. That’s what is worth remembering, and what I will never forget about our little spot on Woodward Heights.