After three years of operating out of a tucked-away nook at Blue Bee Cidery, late last year Truckle Cheesemongers made the move from Scott’s Addition to the Devil’s Triangle [an old nickname for an intersection of shops in the Museum District just off Arthur Ashe Boulevard]. At quintuple the square footage of the former location, the new storefront at 714 N. Sheppard St. is a huge expansion, allowing owner Margaret “Maggie” Bradshaw to test out new models and menus that showcase her top-notch dairy products.
The new 1,500-square-foot, brick-and-mortar, complete with leather lounge chairs, a sleek wooden bar and dueling cheese cases, is a world away from Bradshaw’s humble beginnings in small-town Kentucky. It wasn’t until she studied abroad in Paris and took a wine and gastronomy course that she began honing her palette and developing a deep love for cheese.
After her time in the City of Light, she moved to Washington, D.C., picking up a weekend job in a local cheese shop. Bradshaw first began mongering [a cheesemonger is simply one who sells cheese] once she and her husband moved to North Carolina. When the couple relocated to Richmond, cheese became the perfect side hustle for a mother with young kids.
Bradshaw’s pop-ups at breweries, wineries, and Blue Bee became so popular that the Scott’s Addition cidery asked her to make Truckle Cheesemongers a fixed feature of its old stone location. Despite its small size, the 300-square-feet and one cheese case at Blue Bee helped her build the customer base she needed to support a stand-alone location.
“I don’t think I could have opened my current space without that little space at Blue Bee to foster my slow, incremental growth,” she says.
In the early stage of her career, she used to sit in the bathtub trying to learn at least one new cheese per night. After becoming a certified cheese professional with the American Cheese Society a few years back, Bradshaw is ready to show off her knowledge of the finest bries, goudas, and more.
“A lot of being a cheesemonger is just knowing how to deal with and care for the cheese,” she explains. “People don’t know how much care goes into cheese, from pulling it out of the case, to letting it breathe, to just cleaning its little face off once in a while.”
Bradshaw’s new shop is broken up into two sections: one replete with lounge chairs, coffee tables and a long bench for diners to stay awhile as they enjoy their meals, the other a full-service cheese bar for folks to partake in potent potables. The back of the brick-and-mortar is all about retail with two cheese cases, shelves of wine and cheese board accouterments, and even a fridge for those seeking a cold beer to go.
“We got an ABC license to do beer and wine by the glass, so this bar space will give us a whole different way to do pairings,” says Bradshaw.
For those who don’t have time to taste and talk with Truckle’s staff, the counter will soon feature a cheat sheet of possible pairings that make for a hit at any party. Hoppy beer with bleu cheese, a dry wine with manchego, or roasted fava beans to go on a cheese board are just a few of the pro tips Bradshaw plans to debut. A series of planned staff picks should also allow customers to better get to know her talented team of 11 cheese professionals.
“It’s a great way for customers to learn about our mongers and their differing tastes,” she says. “A lot of people can be intimidated by cheese, beer, wine and how they all go together, but this will help make confident pairings easy.”
An expanded breakfast menu, lunch grab-and-go options, and a full menu for folks who want to sit down and eat (including the famed pre-pandemic soups) are all big changes for the small cheese shop. Though the breakfast pastries are from Flour Garden, an upcoming Euro breakfast option will be made in-house. Bread from Montana Gold will allow the simple sandwiches’ quality ingredients to shine whether it is a crisp caprese or a grilled cheese.
“The nice thing about our offerings is that the ingredients are all good so you don’t need to smother them with anything,” Bradshaw adds. “It’s just simple, great food.”
More special events like raclette Sundays and mini classes with importers should also draw customers to the new location. People who would rather “learn on their sofa and at their own pace” can sign up for Truckle’s Culture(d) Clubs for a rotating monthly selection of cheeses, butters, or both. The packages also come with pairings that range from a fresh baguette to caramelized onion jam.
No matter which way customers choose to consume her cheeses, Bradshaw is pleased she can invite Richmonders to join in her love affair with cheddars, camemberts, and more.
“I love selling cheese since people come in because it’s a luxury and it makes them happy,” she says. “So everyone wants to learn something and enjoy.”
Correction: In the first version of this story there was a typo in the street number of the address in the text, it has been updated.