How to run a cheese and craft ale shop

How a passion for fine cheeses and craft ales – and a positive response to a Twitter business pitch – spawned a thriving shop in north London.

Running a cheese and craft ale shop business

Running a cheese and craft ale shop business

The story of two friends whose love affair with fine cheeses and craft ales – and a reassuring response when they pitched their idea to Twitter – spawned a thriving shop in north London.

Video case study: How to run a cheese shop

Who are the entrepreneurs and what’s the business?

Mark and Fraser are the founders of Froth & Rind in Walthamstow Village in London.

Froth & Rind sells coffee, fine cheeses and craft beer as well as (mainly cheese-based) snacks: the fundamentals of life as far as the pair are concerned!

For more than 20 years, Mark worked for a number of brand design consultancies in central London. Fraser, meanwhile, was a business analyst.

One night the two friends came up with a business idea and shared it via Twitter – and the response was phenomenal. Emboldened that there might be some substance to their idea, they sold cheeses at local markets for six months to establish their brand and find out if their plan really was viable before committing to the expense of leasing premises.

When their current premises became available, Mark and Fraser instantly recognised it as a prime spot in a great location. Once established in bricks-and-mortar premises, they decided to diversify into coffee and beers.

Most snacks at Froth & Rind are cheese-based, as you’d expect. They do five imaginative toasties, for instance: blue cheese and fig, goats cheese and piccalilli, emmental and chorizo, cheddar and onion and raclette and Serrano ham.

A day in the life of a fine cheese and craft beer shop owner

Mark arrives at the shop at 7am and has it ready to open by 8am. Weekdays are filled with regulars, many of whom are office workers or mums with kids.

It’s very busy with deliveries in and out, all day long, as they get through a lot of cheese and beer.

It was a massive risk, say the pair, to abandon the security of the corporate world after 20 years, but Mark and Fraser are really glad they decided to go for it.

The business can be all-consuming. They close on a Monday, but Monday is admin day, they say, so they never really get a day off.

The lifestyle is physically demanding. They’re on their feet all day from 8am-5pm and are constantly moving. In many ways, they admit, it’s a young person’s game.

But it’s a great way of meeting people and developing friendships. Mark sometimes annoys Fraser when he’s chatting while the orders build up!

Running a cheese shop was such a change that Mark and his business partner felt like they were “winging it” at first – and sometimes still do!

They wanted to source cheese you can’t easily find elsewhere, so they spent a lot of time visiting dairies around the UK. They have a great relationship with suppliers, they say, and prefer to deal with small, local independents rather than mega farms – it’s part of their identity.

Advice for aspiring artisanal food retailers

Mark and Fraser have the following tips if you’re interested in setting up or buying a similar business:

  • Get yourself out there with pop-ups and stalls first before you actually invest in property, as then the risk is minimal, because there are no business rates or rent. They suggest pitching up in markets local to where you hope to set up shop.
  • Do your research into what people want. It sounds obvious, but Mark and Fraser trialled various cheeses for six months to see what sold well and what didn’t.
  • Just go for it! For Mark and Fraser, the experience has been the most tiring but brilliant 18 months of their lives.

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