In Chatham, Bimi’s Cheese Shop Opens Not A Moment Too Soon
By Pamela Dreyfus Smith
Going from zero to open in three months isn’t much time to launch a new retail establishment. But for Bimi’s Cheese Shop in Chatham, which opened over Labor Day weekend, that construction period over the summer created an anticipation among passersby as they watched the owners turn the empty storefront on Main Street into a rustic market. Anticipation spawned excitement. And the crowds in the store since day one tell the story: the shop has not disappointed.
“We wanted to give something happy to Chatham,” says Ellen Waggett, one of Bimi’s four owners. The new cheesemongers are actually two couples, each of which comes with a skill set that contributes to the making of a specialty market. Waggett is a production designer for TV; her husband, Chris Landy, is a lighting designer; they created the welcoming décor with repurposed local barn wood and cabinetry, tall ceilings with a pressed tin pattern, stone countertops and large glass cases.
The owners: Chris Landy, David Shea, Ellen Waggett and Laura Shea.
David and Laura Shea had a weekend garden and kitchen internship at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Inn Restaurant in 1998, prior to opening applewood restaurant in Park Slope, where they were among the first to serve locally-sourced, sustainably-grown foods. After eight years, they left the daily management of the restaurant in excellent hands and moved to East Chatham to run applewood farm. They’re here full time; Ellen and Chris still do the back-and-forthing from the city to their country house.
Although all four are committed to local sourcing, they do sell an impressive selection of European cheeses to add to the mix. The couples vowed to take the intimidation factor out of the cheese-shopping, so each cheese in the case is accompanied by a sign detailing its company’s origins, if it’s produced from pasteurized or raw milk, and whether the cheese has a vegetable or animal rennet. A lighthearted cheat sheet offers phonetic pronunciations for the foreign varieties.
Even better, the proof is in the tasting: Bimi’s is generous with sample plates so shoppers can try, for example, a traditional aged Parmigiano or a savory cheesecake made with blue cheese (no sugar added).
Grilled cheese lovers will rejoice: Every day, Bimi’s offers a revolving selection of three mean grilled cheese sandwiches ($5-$7) to go. The menu might include a grilled Mortadella, Sopresatta and Mozzarella, or duck liver pate with Pecorino and mustard on rye. There are also grab-and-go cold plates ($12-$15), each one named after the Columbia County Land Conservancy areas, such as The Ooms Pond Plate, with Blue cheesecake, aged Gouda, crostini, chutney and Seth’s Sauerkraut. Big fans of the CLC, the owners reached out to the conservancy with their idea of creating tote-friendly plates for people to take on a CLC walk, with a portion of the plate sales going to the organization. The picnic-motivating packages come with a trail guide and map, courtesy of the CLC, a nice local touch.
While cheese gets star billing at Bimi’s, there are a host of supporting products on the shelves that will keep customers coming back for an adventure in regionally produced quality food. Mindful of the other businesses in town, the owners have carefully curated their products so that there is no crossover of inventory with any other nearby retailer. There are homemade crostini and crackers, as well as other regional brands, duck liver pate (made in Laura and David’s applewood restaurant), Vermont Quince (localized version of Italian Membrillo,) Big Spoon flavored nut butters, dry fig salami (the vegetarian answer to charcuterie), The Gracious Gourmet chutneys, tapenades and pestos. From Hudson there is Seth’s Sauerkraut, Puckers Gourmet pickles and breads from Bonfiglio & Bread.
There are also unusual items such as goat milk caramels, grilled cheese earrings, folding Opinel knives for picnics and backpacking, many kinds of cheese slicers, artisan crafted wood cutting boards — those fun “hostess gifts” that you’d rather buy for yourself.
Bimi’s shoppers might even find evidence of the store in other places in the neighborhood. The owners are partnering with the Chatham Bookstore, Chatham Brewing and Thompson-Giroux Gallery to provide food for receptions and other events. For Bimi’s, it’s really all about the town — and people — of Chatham.
“The response of the community has been wonderful,” says Waggett. “It’s such a joyous place.”
The wait, after all, was worth it.
Bimi’s Cheese Shop
21 Main Street
Closed Monday and Tuesday