When he’s not leading meetings of the Edmonds City Council, businessman Strom Peterson is the city’s Resident Cheesemonger. Peterson opened the downtown shop in 2005 and carries more than 100 varieties of cheese, as well as fresh eggs and homemade pasta.
Q: How, or why, did you decide to open your business?
A: The short, honest answer is gluttony. I love cheese. Of course, opening in a town that has a great travel vibe with Rick Steves and the Savvy Traveler meant I would attract a clientele that is familiar with cheese shops. Also, the Edmonds business community is incredibly supportive and fun to be a part of. Independently (and locally) owned businesses create a great atmosphere for everyone.
Q: What convinced you that this was the job for you?
A: Besides gluttony, I have always been fortunate to own my own business. (I was a contractor in a previous life.) The discovery of cheese was, if not an accident, a fortunate confluence of events after I first opened Olives Gourmet Foods. We started with a dozen or so different cheeses, which seemed like a lot. Soon we were well past 50, and now we carry over 100.
Q: What does it take to blend your passion with your livelihood?
A: A healthy dose of realism is helpful. I would love to double my cheese selection, but I have learned the limitations of just how many people we can get through the door. Still, we try everything in the store and if we don’t like it, we don’t sell it (there may be an exception or two). I think people appreciate the knowledge and passion we have about our products and that makes it a lot easier to sell.
Q: What are the crucial elements of success for your business?
A: Knowing and enjoying what we sell is number one – it’s a lot easier to convince someone to try a new cheese if you are sincere in your appreciation of it. Being flexible helps – I would have never imagined selling farm fresh eggs or homemade pasta, but we decided we could give them both a try and they have been successful for us. Working with other businesses — from the wine shop, to restaurants, we all do our best to support each other.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge and how did you meet it?
A: Letting people know we’re here. Still our biggest challenge six years into it, but we get new people in every day.
Q:How did your friends and family react when you told them you were getting into this business?
A: “A what-monger?” Actually, they were very supportive. My in-laws came up with the name.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Being part of something both ancient and new. Cheese has been around for centuries and many of the European cheeses haven’t changed much in a thousand years. People come into the shop who were in Italy 30 years ago and we can show them a cheese that they enjoyed and it will bring back a flood of memories.
Q: What personal abilities do you think are needed to excel in this business?
A: You’ve got to like people. It’s a service business and you have to make sure the customer is happy. Sincerity is important. I know my staff really enjoy what I’m doing. We just wouldn’t be successful if we were just faking it.
Q: When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?
A: I love to spend a ridiculous amount of time with my wife, Maria. We love to travel, especially to places we haven’t been, or we just like to walk our dog Lulu to the park. Dinner with some of our close friends is probably at the top of our list, though. And, yes, there will be cheese.
405 Main St., Edmonds