Little Mouse to open the very first cheese shop in South Norwood - read their story
We often get asked how we got started selling cheese and - to be honest - it is a bit of a blur. As with so many other people, we started reflecting on our life during lockdown: what we wanted to do, what we wanted to get out of it etc.
One thing that is important to both of us is community. Our love of South Norwood grew immeasurably once we were forced to spend every day exploring and discovering new bits of it. We wanted to meet more people and support each other.
With Justina’s role at Tate Modern under threat of redundancy, the desire to be part of the community, and the benefits of not having to schlep into the city to buy British artisan cheese, it seemed that the stars were aligning for us to begin selling cheese in South Norwood.
Back in November 2020 we were admiring 212A Selhurst Road from the Craft Beer Cabin thinking “someone should do something there.” As the idea (and numerous IPAs) sunk in further, it dawned on us that we could do it...
Once we sobered up, we realised that taking on a whole 1850s shop unit without any prior experience or knowledge might be a bit too large an undertaking. So we decided to test the water. We needed to answer two questions:
Will people in South Norwood buy cheese?
Will we enjoy selling cheese?
The Clocktower Market was a perfect place to answer these questions: we rented a gazebo, rented a table, and bought a small but not insignificant quantity of cheese. It was a very cheap way to get started, and we thought ‘well if nobody buys cheese, we haven’t lost a huge amount of money.’
At our first market we sold out in two hours. It was a baptism of fire, but gave us huge confidence that this could work. At our second market we sold out again - there was no doubt that South Norwood loves cheese.
And we loved it too! Talking about cheese with people is a passion. From people with expert knowledge to people who know next to nothing about it. We’ve had questions ranging from ‘so how does cheese get made?’ to ‘what creates the vermiculated rind on Dorstone cheese?’ (it’s a yeast called geotrichum, naturally present in goat’s milk). The joy of seeing someone taste a cheese you love, and seeing their face light up is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
In June or July 2021 we again sat outside Craft Beer Cabin staring at the ‘To Let’ sign in the window of 212A Selhurst Road. We decided that we’d enquire again about opening our cheese shop and this time - armed with a knowledge
and confidence that was lacking last time, plus the enthusiastic support we have received from the community - we decided to take the plunge.
The build is underway now, and has been a very steep learning curve. We’re going to turn it into a community asset the whole of South Norwood can be proud of. We will be selling cheese (obviously) alongside wines and accoutrements that pair with the cheeses. We will have space to sit and enjoy a cheeseboard with wine, to chat about the day. We will have events pairing cheese with wine and beer and everything else cheese can go with. We will have talks about local history with cheese, and provide a destination for people.
It will take time. We are still new to this, but the vision is vast, and we are taking it slowly.
We are hoping that the first stage of our opening - an indoor cheese shop - will coincide with Clocktower Market on Saturday 13 November. Given the Clocktower Market was essential for getting us started, that sounds like a lovely coincidence to us. Come to say hi :) We look forward to welcoming you into our new shop!
Justina & Gareth, Little Mouse