A little bit of Christmas cheese: an interview with the owner of Chalton Street cheesemongers and café, Cheezelo
For many people, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without the traditional festive cheeseboard. So what better time to catch up with Eleonore Deneuve, owner of the British Library’s local neighbourhood cheesemonger, delicatessen and café situated on Chalton Street?
Over the last year, Eleonore has worked with the Library’s Business & IP Centre to start and grow the business, and joined us to tell us how she’s benefitted from the Centre’s services, as well as to share some of her hints and tips for the perfect Christmas cheeseboard.
Tell us a little more about the Cheezelo business.
Cheezelo is a cheese retailer offering products to end consumers and catering services to small and medium businesses. The business officially started trading in December 2016 when it was renting renting a commercial kitchen in East London and focusing on online sales, both via our own website) and online delivery platforms. We also had a regular presence at weekends markets such as Roan Road, Brick Lance and Columbia Road. We really wanted the business to have its own physical presence and I acquired a shop lease in April 2017 which allowed me to offer my products and services face-to-face to end consumers in the Kings Cross area (on Chalton Street). The shop itself has now been open since mid June 2017. We offer a wide range of 70+ artisan cheeses from all over Europe, British, French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss, ad are constantly increasing our range to satisfy the multiculturality of London. Cheezelo also specialises in regional and bespoke ready-to-eat cheese platters, composed of a variety of cheeses, seasonal fruits, chutney and crackers. Those are available to consume at the shop, take away or for online delivery.
What inspired the creation of the business? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?
Well really, like all good business ideas it started with a personal passion, that being my own love of cheeses and wine and hosting dinner parties with friends, just generally preparing cheese platters and sharing a good time and quality food with the people I love. I had also observed that tapas, aperitivo and shared food platters were more and more popular in the UK, and I wanted Ceezelo to respond to those trends by specialising in ready to eat cheese platters.
Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? If so, how have you benefitted from this?
Indeed, I actually prepared the business plan and did all my market research with the help of the amazing resources at the Business & IP Centre. I alsa participated in various workshops and classes too which really helped me understand my market, develop my idea, structure my research and write my business plan, and ultimately to launch of my company. The amount of resources available in the Library for businesses to use is incredible, and I benefited a lot speaking to experts and entrepreneurs at the Centre and gaining their insight. Once I had actually opened the shop, I was also really lucky to be selected to have a business mentor for 6-month period which has been really key to the recent development and growth of the company. I am so grateful at the amount of resources and support available at the Centre. Aside from gaining practical information, coming to workshop also allowed me to network with various other small business owners and really increased my confidence to start the shop.
You recently took part in a Christmas market at the British Library – tell us more about that?
I was glad to be part of this year Christmas Market at the British Library, It is where it all started in some ways, being there and presenting a range of my cheeses and delicatessens products was ideal, also given that my shop is located only 2 min walk away, It was also a way to promote my shop and products to the members of the british library and their visitors.
What makes your business unique from other cheese retailers in London?
I think I am different from the competition in the sense that I offer a really wide range of European cheeses, so there’s always something to meet your tastes. Whereas a lot of other cheese retailers are focused specifically on specializing in either British French cheeses, I source Spanish, Italian, Swiss and Dutch cheeses so the range is really diverse. The shop currently offers about 75 different cheeses from all over Europe and I am aiming to extend the range even further in the new year. I also offer a very popular range of homemade vegan cheeses to serve the dairy free community, and am passionate about sourcing locally made products such as fresh bread made on Caledonian Road, vegan crackers and houmous made locally in Hackney and so on. My little shop is on a quiet street in a central location but still with quite a residential atmosphere. It was really important to me to be remain close to the community and offer fresh, excellent quality and affordable food to people from all walks of life, and I think that community engagement is something that also sets the business apart from other competitors.
Being close to the community is obviously very important to you, but what factors affected your decision to base the business in the Somers Town / St Pancras area?
Since I moved to London, I always lived in Kings Cross and Camden area and I have seen this part of London developed and improve significantly over the past 6 years. When started my research for setting up Cheezelo, I realised that a cheese monger was a service that was currently missing in the area, and with the continuous development of the area bringing in diverse new groups of people who live and work nearby, I decided this market gap was the perfect opportunity to start my company. When it came to choosing a location, I visited many vacant retail units and ultimately settled on the Chalton Street location for two reasons. Firstly, the location is directly between King’s Cross and Euston stations and so there is lots of passing traffic. But secondly, being located in Somers Town meant that the rent was more affordable than being on the High Street, so it was a more feasible location for a start-up business like mine.
What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will Cheezelo be five years from now?
Well the first priority of course is to concentrate on making Cheezelo on Chalton Street a great success. After that, I would eventually like to open another shop in East London and possibly also in another UK city one day too, so watch this space!
Finally, we all love a nice bit of cheese at Christmas, but what are your expert tips for creating the perfect festive cheeseboard?
Ohhhh my favourite question – I could talk about cheese all day! For the perfect cheeseboard you need a good variety of textures and flavor intensity. I would recommend the following: start with a soft cheese like brie de meaux, camembert or pont l'eveque. Then add a semi-soft cheese with some strong flavours like a cornish yarg, Saint Nectaire or a cider Normandy cheese (la bonne cauchoise is a cider cheese which I import directly from Upper Normandy that’s always very popular!) Of course a blue cheese is also essential: stilton is traditional at Christmas, but bleu d auvergne or Roquefort also work really well. You then need a good strong hard cheese to complete the board, something like manchego curado, farmhouse cheddar like Wookey Cave aged, comté mature or gruyere alpage 24 months. You could finalise the perfect platter some goat cheese like a rosary goat, or selles sur cher type soft goat, and if you want to really be extravagant maybe something with some flavours of truffle for extra Christmas indulgence. I think it is important to have a minimum of 3 cheeses for enough variety, and also garnish with some seasonal fruits like grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, chutney. Don’t forget some good quality fresh bread and mixed crackers too. My final big tip is to say don’t hesitate to mix the cheeses from different countries. There is so much variety to choose from and mixing up cheese from British, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch or Swiss producers really adds some diversity to your selection and ensures that you’ll be getting a great mix of flavor profiles and textures to enjoy with friends and family over the festive season.
Cheezelo is open at 46 Chalton right up until Christmas Eve to meet all your last minute festive cheese needs.
And don’t forget, if your New Year’s resolution is to finally take the plunge and set up your own business, the Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme can give you all the essential information you need to get started on your business journey in 2018.