Adam Shutes, 40, became accustomed to multitasking in 15 years of work as a research scientist in the biotech industry. Shutes can now be found making sandwiches, phoning suppliers, and helping customers as the new co-owner of the Boston Cheese Cellar in Roslindale.
Shutes, who grew up in England, and his business partner, Giuseppe Argentieri, purchased the neighborhood shop in early April and reopened it in early May. The Boston Cheese Cellar had closed in February after eight years on a quiet street near Roslindale Village. While Argentieri has a history in the industry — he is a cheese maker and owner of Mozzarella House in Peabody — Shutes is new to the business. His decision to buy and reopen the shop was driven by a desire to deepen his connection to the Roslindale community, where he has lived for seven years, “I really love the area. Roslindale has, in my mind, a typical English village square. And so I’ve wanted to put something back into the community for a while,” Shutes says. When he heard about the cheese shop closing, the opportunity seemed right to maintain a local business and begin a new venture with Argentieri, with whom he has been friends for years.
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Q. How did the neighborhood respond to the shop reopening?
A. I wanted a soft opening to get me into the groove. I said on Facebook: Come back and say hi to the cheese shop you knew. And that’s what they did in droves. I’ve had a couple people come in over the weekend and say, “You have a greyhound. I’ve seen you walking past the house.” Stephanie, who works for us and also used to work for the previous owners, said that day was as busy as the day before Christmas.
Q. Have you always thought of opening a cheese shop?
A. My history is that my parents and back three generations on my mother’s side have been bakers back in England. But my background is in science. I’ve basically managed to put three compounds into clinical trials, which can take 10 years. I can’t wait and wait until they go into approved drug format. I decided that I had set out to do what I wanted to do — to make an impact on people’s lives. I’d come to a nice conclusion at the end of last year and I was looking for a new challenge. My friend Giuseppe was in the cheese business. We always talked about how we might do something together. Then this popped up.
Q. Has your science background influenced your interest in cheese?
A. Cheese is something which I’d read a bit about. Cheese is a living thing. Last night we had some people around and I took out this really stinky French cheese called Epoisses. The more it warms up, the more it moves. The bacteria and fungi in there are still working. These are the good fungi and good bacteria. It’s kind of fascinating if you just think of it as a way to store milk, which is how it initiated. I’m learning a lot and there’s a lot still to learn.
Q. Has Giuseppe Argentieri’s experience as a cheese maker been helpful?
A. He has the background, the contacts, the sort of things that can help the shop start. If I came to this with a completely blank slate, I wouldn’t know where to go. There are relationships with a lot of different vendors and distributors. Some of those he’s opened up, some of those I’ve done myself. Giuseppe is also the head of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild. We’ll work on bringing in as many Massachusetts and New England cheeses as we can. There will probably be a bit more of the British cheese, which is me. I know we will have a great selection of other European and local cheeses.
Q. How have you changed the shop from its previous incarnation?
A. Really we spent just three weeks cleaning up, redoing the floors, and giving it a paint job. We’ve been moving things around, getting things in. Deliveries are coming and empty shelves are filling up. The spirit of the place has remained the same, I hope.
Q. How does it feel to go to work in a shop rather than a lab?
A. It’s a lot of work. But it’s great. A friend of mine who was here on Saturday said the vibe in this place was so positive. People would come in and they’d stand and look and we’d talk to them. This is very important to me. I’m kind of very much in love with the social fabric of the places I’ve lived in. This has been growing since I lived in Roslindale. When this place opened up, I thought if I didn’t try this I’d kick myself.
Interview was edited and condensed. Michael Floreak can be reached at [email protected]