Before opening his first shop, partner and founder Iain Mellis had worked in the British cheese industry for almost 15 years. For some time he had felt that there was a lack of opportunity to buy high quality farmhouse cheese, both in the retail and wholesale sector.
After much investigation and consultation in the UK and Europe, Iain decided upon a retail philosophy. He wanted a traditional, old fashioned sense of service and style whilst using modern technology to maintain and enhance the unique characteristics of artisan cheese.
One of the most important aspects of Iain’s thinking was flavour. Farmhouse cheese differs from mass-produced factory cheese because the milk comes from a single herd rather than several different sources. The milk is usually unpasteurised which means that the defining flavour-characteristics are left untouched. Like a fine malt whiskey, farmhouse cheese is made from the highest quality ingredients, using pure, unadulterated methods, resulting in a product of exceptional taste.
In May 1993, Iain was ready to open his first shop. He located a small, damp, cave-like shop halfway up Victoria Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It was an ideal location. It was a place that could be kept cool and damp without too much trouble – perfect for storing cheese.
By Christmas that year business was so brisk that additional staff were being recruited. Iain was beginning to realise that he had tapped into a rich vein of demand and that satisfying it may well require expansion.
After two years of successful trading Iain opened a shop in Glasgow. The attraction of this store was that it contained a cellar which could be used to mature cheese. Iain could now buy cheese young and ripen it to perfection.
The Glasgow shop proved to be a great success and soon a second Edinburgh shop was opened in Bruntsfield. Here the range of goods was increased and this store became a ‘provisions merchant’ in addition to cheesemonger.
In the earliest days of trading Iain and his wife Karen would often fill the boot of their car with cheese and set off round Edinburgh, delivering to hotels and restaurants. Now the wholesale side of the business was really taking off and the need for warehouse and office space increased. Suitable premises were found in Leith, which were fitted with bespoke refrigeration and humidifiers. This now provided a platform for further expansion.
A further three shops were to open in Edinburgh, St Andrew’s and Aberdeen, slowly but surely allowing greater reach to Scotland’s cheese lovers while creating many more along the way.
Mellis Cheesemongers have now been trading for over 15 years, bringing together producers and consumers for mutual benefit. The aim for the future is to continue this process while continually striving to improve.