Specialty cheese shop C’est Cheese closed its doors for good on Saturday.
According to a statement on the shop’s website, owners Michael and Kathryn Graham said they were working to recover from the financial impact of the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flow, but the financial burden created by the COVID-19 outbreak was too much to overcome.
“We hung on as long as we could, but unfortunately the time has come for us to close our doors,” the Grahams said.
“We never imagined how fulfilling our lives would become when we decided to open up our little cheese shop 16 years ago. And for that, we are forever grateful. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be a part of this community,” they said.
The Grahams opened C’est Cheese in 2003 at 825 Santa Barbara St. They focused on European and American cheeses, charcuterie, bread, wine, specialty food, and some high-end cookware.
“Our overriding focus is traditionally to make artisan foods that have really great flavor, basically the stuff that’s made out in the little farm out in the country as opposed to industrial mass quantity foods,” Mr. Graham said in a 2019 interview with the News-Press.
He said that some of his most popular cheeses were artisan Gruyère.
“You can get that at lots of grocery stores but … the one we carry is imported by a guy named Wolf Spieler. It’s absolutely the best of the best. You know the cows are up on the Alpine pastures eating the fresh grasses, aged about a year longer than most Gruyère and has an intense, serene, smooth flavor. Just perfect,” Mr. Graham said.
The Grahams lost their New York City technology industry jobs in 2001 during the economic downturn and decided to move to Santa Barbara because Mrs. Graham attended UCSB.
“We kind of went through a reevaluation of what we wanted to do with our lives and we always had loved food,” Mr. Graham said.
He leaned on his experience working for a gourmet market in Michigan to get the shop up and running.
“The thing that surprised us the most and we didn’t anticipate was the community that we became a part of. That’s definitely my favorite part of this,” Mr. Graham said.
“We have our customers, our regulars that come in, most of them come in every week. … The amount of support and care from the community that we are a part of is a major part of why we are doing this,” Mr. Graham said.
Those loyal fans took to social media on Saturday to reminisce about their favorite memories from the shop.
“My little one (now 7) has been to the shop most Saturdays of their life. … Thanks for helping make him a cheese-lover for life. We will miss you,” Rachel Segalman wrote on Facebook.
“What you created was about way more than cheese. I have amazing memories of meeting with people and building a stronger community at C’est Cheese,” wrote Danelle Mangone Coyle.