Union Square isn't just the domain of fight-happy bullies, Miami-style pop-up pools and upskirt peepers—it's also very, very cheesy. Add a few Elmos and a M&M Store South and it may even rival Times Square!
Two recent artisanal cheese shops have opened in the area—Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and Bedford Cheese Shop. They join Whole Foods and Eataly, which both have impressive cheese sections, the new Agata & Valentina spot on University Place, as well as the cheesemakers of the Union Square Greenmarket to form the cheesiest area in Manhattan. “It’s hard to imagine now, but artisan cheese was not even a term people talked about when we opened back home in 2003,” Kurt Beecher Dammeier, Beecher’s founder, told the Daily News. “Flash-forward to 2011, and the artisan cheese movement is raging. In a way, our first Seattle shop felt like a bigger risk than our 8,500-square-feet store in the middle of Manhattan."
But will all these cheese options from cheese purveyors cause some sort of cheese turf-war, with horse-shaped hunks of gouda appearing between the sheets of rival factions? “I believe a rising tide floats all boats,” Dammeier said. “I didn’t want to compete with the Greenmarket by opening here. I wanted to add to it, and to make the area even more of a destination for cheese. We’ve tried specifically not to be a shop that sold local cheeses. And though we do have local, our base plan is to sell the best of the nation.”
“I don’t consider the Greenmarket as competition, or Beecher’s,” said Charlotte Kamin, who founded Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg back in 2003. “We’re all doing very different things, with a united goal of helping farmers.” Lynn Fleming, the owner of Greenmarket regular Lynnhaven Goat Milk Cheese, doesn't share Kanin's wide-eyed optimism: “Will it affect my business? How can it not affect my business?" But Fleming is sure that his regulars won't turn their back on a great feta: “But I have very loyal customers, and it won’t affect them.” Hopefully she has the patience for the job: