What's It All About?
Down at the bottom of the front page there are four little boxes where we try to summarise what The Cheese Shed is about. Well - yes! We’re about selling cheese, obviously, but we’d like to think that in the process of doing that we have a certain way of working with people and relating to the wider world. So as we approach our 12th anniversary I just want say a little more about that ...
It Starts With Great Cheese!
Naturally. And in fact it literally started with James and I opposite sides of a deli cheese counter. The deli was his family business - Mann & Son in Bovey Tracey (estd. 1827!). James was on side, I was on the other, getting excited about all the weird and wonderful Westcountry cheeses, struggling to decide which to buy.
The business, when it started, was just an extension of my belief in the product, and it seemed to us that if we were excited by the fantastic quality of Westcountry cheese then possibly lots of other people would be too … if only they could get hold of it. And that was where The Cheese Shed would help.
The business has never budged from that simple idea: we sell things we really, really believe in. If we don’t believe in it, we don’t sell it!
… And Continues With Giving The Best Customer Service We Can
Those little interactions we all have with people in shops - or who provide services - the quality of these makes a big difference to the quality of our lives. I really hope our customers feel we’re friendly and pleasant to talk to - because we certainly try our best. If you call us or email, there should be the reassurance of dealing with an actual Human Being. There have been no customer service training days and no scripts are being followed; there’s just a group of people who’ll do their best to help.
One really important aspect of customer service to us concerns how we deal with problems - which will crop up from time to time no matter how hard we try. Our attitude here is simple. To start with we’ll trust you - if you say something’s gone wrong we’ll take your word for it - then we’ll apologise and see what we can do to put things right (and normally that’ll mean a replacement or refund of some sort). We can’t promise perfection, but where there’s been a problem we’ll really do our best to put it right.
How Do We Relate To The World Out There?
Beyond trying to sell great products in a good way, as a business we can also try to be positive more broadly. I suppose you might think of it as trying to be good citizens. So: we employ people, and I like to think The Cheese Shed is a decent - and a fun - place to work. We deal with suppliers - dairies, food and drink producers of various sorts - and have good relationships with all of them, built on trust. Since September 2015 we’ve been raising money for a series of charities totalling over £5000 (half provided by our customers, half by ourselves). It’s good to feel that a by-product of selling cheese can be helping some causes we believe in. And we’re involved in a festival here in Bovey Tracey, Nourish. Now entering its fifth year, the idea was to help make this a vibrant place to live, culturally and commercially. The festival is based around food (of course), contemporary craft and music - and it’s the last one of those which I’m particularly involved in.
Twelve years in, we must have gathered a bit of this along the way! We’ve certainly acquired a really good knowledge of the cheeses being made by small producers all across our region: who makes what, what their stories are, and all the different qualities of the cheeses involved. We’ve worked out how to get cheese to every part of the UK quickly, safely and reliably. If you’re planning a celebration, a party or a wedding and are intimidated with the amount of choice, talk to us: we really do know how to put a great cheeseboard or cheese cake together!
And so we go on: still loving the brilliant products we work with, still enjoying finding out more, still getting a buzz from our customers, from the people we work with and live among. What will the next year bring?
Ian Wellens | 23 April 2018