Stephen Catania understands the learning curve that comes along with artisan cheeses.
As owner of Monmouth Street’s , he’s made an effort to educate his customers about the different kinds of cheeses available behind the counter since opening his shop a year and a half ago.
But he realizes that news about the bleus, the cheddars, the Taleggios and of course the goat, the cow, the sheep, can make the entire process a bit daunting for cheese newbies.
To help encourage customers to come to the Cave, Catania developed a once part time and now permanent promotion called $5 Fridays with the express interest in creating a cheese-stress-free atmosphere where patrons could sample the goods, learn about appropriate pairings, socialize and, ultimately, come back and spend some real money.
“One bit of feedback I initially got from people after the store opened was that they like cheese but they didn’t know if they had any of (the Cave’s) cheeses before, or where to start,” Catania said. “We’ve taken the intimidation out of it.”
Every Friday since $5 Friday was launched the Cave features six different cheeses as well as breads, nuts and spreads to demonstrate proper flavor and textural pairings.
When Catania first launched the promotion last summer, he envisioned it being a temporary kind of thing, something to help pull in customers on summer days before their Friday evening downtown dinners. The event was such a success, Catania said, that he’s kept it going every Friday since.
Though the turnout varies week to week, a steady influx of customers, often dozens at a time, make the Cave a destination. The crowd is a good mix, Catania said, of old and new customers. The returning customers lets him know that he’s doing it right, he said, and the new faces let him know that word about his shop and his product continues to spread.
“It’s about building a brand; helping people recognize what we do here, get familiar with the cheese, with me, with out staff,” he said. “We like to say we’re broadening people’s appreciation of artisan cheeses.”
While cheese appreciation grows, Catania’s gamble has paid off. Though the $5 he charges each Friday helps defray the associate food costs of the event, the real benefit comes from returning customers.
Armed with cheese knowledge and absent cheese fear, they come back to purchase what they’ve tried – Catania says he’s got so many types of cheese that it often takes months for cheeses to reappear during $5 Fridays — or explore new styles.
“It’s been a home run in terms of getting people into the shop and getting them to return,” he said. “That’s where the benefit is for me as a business owner.”