If you’re one of the unfortunate visitors or residents of Cape May who cannot have— but dearly miss—cheese, do yourself a favor and steer clear of The Cheese Shop & Cape May Creamery this summer. If, however, you have the luxury of being able to indulge in fromage, may we suggest treating your senses—and of course your belly—to a trip to Cape May’s newest answer to all things cheese.
Located right on the mall at 304 Washington Street, The Cheese Shop is housed in a charming yellow building with a bold black door and a handful of bistro tables outside. If it looks familiar, it’s because The Cheese Shop is in what used to be the gift shop, Across the Way, now relocated…across the mall. The transformation is almost hard to believe. Gone are the crazy socks, the cards, and the cheerful mugs (which are all safely housed in their new location). In their place is cheese—glorious, delicious, and plentiful cheese.
The Cheese Shop & Cape May Creamery is the newest venture of Carl and Susan Spatocco, joining businesses like Cape May Peanut Butter Co., Smithville Peanut Butter Co., Wingnutz Nut Haus, Cape May Olive Oil Co., Spice Cellar, and Inn at the Park in the Cape Island Foods Family. The Spatoccos started with Cape May Olive Oil Co. about 10 years ago—The Cheese Shop opened in 2021.
“When Steve got out of the business, I felt that there was a need and a gap,” says Carl Spatocco of West Cape May’s Seaside Cheese Company, which has permanently closed. “We looked at the space and we modeled it after the Amsterdam Cheese Company—not that I’ve been there, but I’ve heard about it. I looked at the pictures and I loved the way it looked with the butcher block up against the brick. So, we built a forty-foot brick wall.”
Spatocco emulated the classic European shop with an eye-catching exposed brick wall lining the whole side of the store, as well as the low display cabinets.
“I had all custom-made European style cases,” says Spatocco. “A typical American deli case has a high top and a round front. What I didn’t like about that is it kind of put too much distance between us and the customer.”
With experts behind the counter and dozens of cheeses to choose from, access is a good thing. It’s just one of dozens of carefully cultivated choices the Spatoccos made when planning the shop.
“You can use the countertop to put out your samples, and the low height gives you a closer proximity to the customer,” says Spatocco. “We put a lot of effort and time into designing the store, making sure we can get the most in the small space.”
While it may have been inspired by the Amsterdam shop, The Cheese Shop & Cape May Creamery is distinctively Cape May, with locals popping in to grab a hand-crafted sandwich or daily soup on their lunch break, and visitors taking advantage of the pre-made cheese plates made available daily, perfect for post-beach snacking in a hotel or Airbnb.
“People can just come in and grab them,” Spatocco says of the pre-made plates. “If you want something custom made, we have all different sizes and all different prices. A lot of people who are staying in the hotels and they’ll buy some meat, they’ll buy some cheese, and they’ll take it back and cut it up or we’ll cut it for them.”
In addition to pre-made cheese plates, there’s everything you could possibly imagine creating a swoon-worthy, Pinterest-inspired charcuterie board of your very own. The Cheese Shop & Cape May Creamery has managed to fit an extraordinary amount of product into the space, with floor to ceiling shelves stocked with delicacies of all kinds including exquisitely crafted chocolates from Éclat, hand dipped dark chocolate figs, and pecans with maple cinnamon milk chocolate; a selection of smoked fish; cured and uncured meats; desserts like homemade biscotti, cheesecake, and cannoli; pastas and sauces; enticing condiments like burgundy mustard, olive oils, jellies, jams and honeys; crackers, breadsticks and crostini; an assortment of serving boards, knives and graters; and even top notch mixers like habanero lime cocktail spice, orange bitters, and Luxardo cherries. It’s like the world’s most delightful cheese board imaginable come to life.
And yet, it’s not too much. The display is tasteful, well organized, and accessible, welcoming customers rather than inundating them.
“We don’t overwhelm people with too many of the cheeses. We try to pick the better of each class. So, we’ll have six blues, but great blues, the really good blues—we’ll have the smoky blue, the Point Reyes blue is fantastic, and then we rotate,” says Spatocco. “We have lots of staples, but then if we see something we like, we may just try and do it for a short run. This way, you change it up for people who come here all the time.”
With new additions and curious owners, there’s always something interesting at The Cheese Shop & Cape May Creamery. One of the cheese brands that Spatocco is most excited about working with right now is von Trapp Farmstead—of The Sound of Music fame—in Vermont.
For those who prefer a spread to a slice, there are homemade cheese spreads—the Parmesan asiago is a favorite—as well as a particularly delicious hummus.
“We make wonderful hummus,” Spatocco says. “Chickpeas are chickpeas. When you’re making a hummus, what really makes a difference is what you’re putting in, the tahini and the other stuff. We use a tahini that these sisters make up in this incubator space called SOOM. This tahini is so good that the hummus is wonderful.”
The Cheese Shop has only been around for a year, but already, the response has been terrific. “People initially come in and they’re wowed by the look of the store,” says Spatocco.
“The other thing we hear all the time is ‘oh it smells so good in here.’ It’s definitely been received well.” ■