Saturday, February 4, 2023

A Nice Cheese Shop


The two local things that can be guaranteed to reappear on a reliable basis on social media are memories of particular concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion and recollections of a certain cheese shop. 

That cheese shop must be particularly memorable because it has appeared in several of my blog posts already. Alas, I never had the opportunity to patronize this legendary establishment.

It was in Wilde Lake. That’s pretty much all that I know. But it left a big impression on folks who lived here at the time. In 2011 Patch writer Lisa Rossi wrote a piece about early Wilde Lake - -  using materials from the Columbia Archives - - and the cheese shop gets a mention.

Dream City: Wilde Lake, Then and Now 

Image from Columbia Archives

In newspaper advertisements, readers learned about the Giant Food supermarket in Columbia’s first village center, as well as its bank, book store, drug store, music shop, barbershop, dry cleaner, liquor store, candy store, cheese shop, beauty shop and service station, all open in the bustling neighborhood.

For some reason, unknown to me, that cheese shop has survived in the memories of many as the quintessential Columbia village center experience. It must have been a truly amazing place. Whenever two or more are gathered online to discuss how Village Centers could be reimagined or updated, someone is bound to show up and say,

“But what about a nice cheese shop?”

This morning I found yet another mention on Twitter as I scanned local items for the blog. Here’s the exchange:

Random aside: How did I only discover havarti cheese now, so late in life? It's literally the greatest cheese EVER.

My brother discovered Havarti about 50 years ago in a small cheese shop in Columbia Maryland.. how that shop changed my life - and my palate!

Do cheese shops exist today in the same way that this one did in 1967? Not really. Grocery stores have expanded over the years to include much of the same “gourmet” cheese inventory that would have once been handled by a specialized retail shop. Locally Whole Foods and Wegman’s have impressive cheese offerings.

I’m not sure a stand-alone cheeseshop could make it today.

The recent craze over charcuterie boards has brought back an interest in choosing just the right items for the perfect edible display. One of my former students has been working at Firefly Farms Market in Baltimore creating culinary works of art for hungry and discerning customers.

Image from Instagram

It’s located in Whitehall Mill, “…an historic mill featuring a market, restaurant, apartments, offices and private events spaces.”

Image from Whitehall Mill website

That sounds an awful lot like creative reuse. (Think the Whole Foods repurposing the old Rouse Building.)  It also sounds like the kind of mixed-use development that was rejected in Hickory Ridge for their Village Center. 

Hmm. Is it truly the nice little cheese shop that folks are yearning for? Or is it more of a symbol that stands in for what life was like in early Columbia? 

“Why can’t it just be the way it was when I liked it and I was happy?”

I get that. There’s a lot about life these days that isn’t the way it was when I liked it and I was happy.

The other day I saw a suggestion on the Howard County Eats page that got me thinking:

Curious about the food court space in Savage mill, seems like a great spot for a food hall similar to common kitchen. Anyone know if there are plans to bring in vendors there?

Could it be a good place for a nice cheese shop?

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