Cheesemongers of Santa Fe, a pillar of the city’s downtown foodie scene for the past five years, will close by the end of March.
The Marcy Street store announced the upcoming closure on its Facebook page Tuesday evening.
“Hello, friends. It’s time for a sad announcement: After five dairy-drenched years, Cheesemongers of Santa Fe will be closing at the end of this month,” the post says. “This is a very tough decision, but we are so full of gratitude to our wonderful customers and the incredibly supportive community of Santa Fe.”
The post promises the shop will be kept well stocked until the last week of March, and it encourages customers to come by, use up any remaining gift cards and say goodbye.
“We hope there’s someone out there that can carry on the tradition of selling great cut-to-order cheese in Santa Fe,” the post continues. “We’d be happy to offer advice.”
Cheesemongers owner Suzy Thompson, who lives in Norman, Okla., said her long-distance ownership played a role in her decision to close the store. Along with her husband, Steve “Wampus” Reynolds, she also owns Forward Foods in Norman, a cheese and specialty-foods store similar to Cheesemongers.
She opened Cheesemongers of Santa Fe in September 2014 with co-owner and managing partner John Gutierrez. Gutierrez, who left the store in late 2016 to go into farming, was a 2014 BizMIX competition winner with the Cheesemongers idea.
He had worked with Thompson and Reynolds at Forward Foods before opening his own cheese shops in the San Francisco Bay Area.
While vacationing in Santa Fe in 2013, Thompson and Reynolds met with a real estate agent who showed them the Marcy Street space. They contacted Gutierrez in San Francisco and asked if he would like to be their “boots on the ground” for Santa Fe cheese store.
After Gutierrez left the operation, Thompson said in an email, she and her husband moved to Santa Fe for a year to try to get the business back on stable ground, “as it was financially unsound. It was an extremely challenging and often painful process, but we were able to get it back on its feet from a financial standpoint.
“However,” she continued, “we could not stay in Santa Fe and we were never able to find another managing partner to help us run it.”
Thompson said, “We explored sale possibilities for Cheesemongers but could not find a path forward that made financial sense to anyone.”
In its early days, Cheesemongers had lines of customers out the door.
“Cheesemongers introduced Santa Fe to a world of cheese that we never had access to,” said John Vollertsen, better known as chef Johnny Vee, who offers cooking classes at Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe in the DeVargas Center.
Cheesemongers carries more than 100 cheeses, mostly from smaller-scale and farmstead producers from more than a dozen countries, with prices in the range of $20 to $30 per pound and as high as $50 per pound. It also carries specialty foreign foods.
Santa Fe Opera-goers often purchased Cheesemongers picnic baskets for their parking lot tailgate parties.
But the store came at a time of growing options in Santa Fe for cheese lovers.
“The new Market Street has really stood up and focused on cheese selection, trying to keep the pricing reasonable, making exotic cheese more affordable,” Vollertsen said, speaking of the Albertsons offshoot at the DeVargas Center.
Lauren Stutzman, who worked at Cheesemongers for two years and now has her own business in Cerrillos, Picnic Catering & Events, cited La Montañita Co-op, Whole Foods and Smith’s Food & Drug as also offering elevated selections of cheese.
“As for Santa Fe becoming known as a foodie city, having a cut-to-order cheese shop was one more box you could check,” Stutzman said of Cheesemongers.
She acknowledged the store’s breathtaking prices limited its clientele.
“But for the mainly white, mainly affluent people of Santa Fe and for visitors,” Stutzman said, “they could learn a lot about cheese from around the world and how cheese is made.
“One customer had a tasting notebook and tasted everything,” she added.