At first glance you might think Valley Shepherd Creamery—the new cheese shop at Seventh Avenue and Third Street—is yet another boutique engineered to offer an agrarian aesthetic, complete with a logo featuring rolling hills and fluffy sheep. But here the rural cred is real: The shop’s name, and the majority of its creamy inventory, comes directly from a 120-acre dairy farm in Long Valley, New Jersey.
Greenmarketeers might recognize both. Farmer Eran Wajswol says that selling directly to customers allows him something he calls “freedom of artistic expression.” Instead of pushing out 40 wheels a month of nutty Calfion Tomme (a Gouda-like, raw cow’s milk cheese) or 100 little cones of sweet Caprice (a mold-ripened round of goaty goodness) for wholesale orders, he says, “we make what we make, when we want to make it.”
For a decade, the farm sold precisely that at the Sheep Shoppe, their on-farm store, or at the Greenmarkets. Over the years they did so well under the white tents that they now attend 22 markets citywide, where their tables are stacked with three dozen European-style cave-aged cheeses, plus yogurts, butter, meat, sheepskins and other goodies from their goats, sheep and cows.
Encouraged by city sales, Wasjwol opened a tiny shop in SoHo last year, tapping Samantha Safer, a cheesemonger poached from a Manhattan Whole Foods, to run it. But the touristy, high-rent hood wasn’t a good fit, says Safer, so she relocated to Brooklyn. Like the Sheep Shoppe, the Slope spot stocks a few things beyond Long Valley’s 35 cheeses. That includes fresh milk from Ronnybrook and Five Acre Farms; local mozzarella and Vermont burrata; a few aged cheeses from nearby dairies; breads from Grandaisy, Sullivan Street and Orwasher’s; and charcuterie, pickles, chips, jams and jellies and honey—plus massive sandwiches made with all of the above.
Business is so bustling that Safer says the place is already looking to expand: Maybe a store in Crown Heights, or at least some way to store the line of Valley Shepherd gelatos, not to mention more milk, considering their Park Slope clientele. “Half of the neighborhood is either pregnant,” she jokes, “or has kids already. ”
Feeling sheepish. The majority of Valley Shepherd’s creamy inventory comes straight to the Slope from the owner’s New Jersey farm.
Photo credit: Nicole Franzen.