I went to undergrad at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD – a super tiny school known as the “Great Books School” – we studied philosophy, science, math, and literature using only primary texts. E.g. for geometry, we read Euclid’s Elements.
During my senior year there (2002), I started working at WFM, basically just to make some extra beer money. I was placed at the cheese counter and fell in love w/ it. I loved the storytelling aspect, and devoured any info I could. At the time, the only real book was the Cheese Primer, and the internet wasn’t the wealth of information it is today.
I basically just started cold calling cheesemakers and asking them about their products. Around this time, I met the cowgirls for the first time, and started corresponding with Jason Hinds of NYD.
Just after graduating, I moved to NYC to open the Columbus Circle WFM as cheese buyer and educator. They gave me a fair amount of autonomy to buy what I wanted, and I was able to carry pretty unusual cheeses like Doddington’s and Sally Jackson, among others. I also had the opportunity to meet Mateo of Jasper Hill around then, when he brought down some of his very early test batches of Constant Bliss for the first time.
After about a year in NYC, I won a full scholarship to study at the Slow Food University in Pollenzo, Italy (’04-’05). I found out about the scholarship and moved there within 2 weeks, not knowing any Italian. I stayed for a year, instead of the 3-5 the program was intended for, as it was quite disorganized and hadn’t yet been accredited. But I did get to meet lots of amazing people and travel all around Italy to various food producers.
I came back after a year, and began work at Artisanal Cheese in their cave aging facilities as a buyer. I ended up becoming head buyer there and making lots of buying trips, meeting producers, and generally learning more about the supply chain. (’05-’07)
After a failed sale, I left the company to go back to WFM to open their Bowery location. They were trying an experimental European style layout with a walk-in retail cheese cave. While it never really took (that store is troubled to this day), it was a great experience. (’07-’08)
I ended up leaving WFM to follow a girl to Boston in 2008. I left cheese for a time, and was one of the first employees at a new bean-to-bar chocolate startup called Taza Chocolate, specializing in stone ground organic chocolate. Got to learn a whole new supply chain and product type, learned all about flavor profiles and defects and cultivation of cacao.
I was recruited by Murray‘s in 2011 to move back to NYC, where I was asst buyer for a year, moving to head buyer after that. It was an extraordinary but also difficult experience, with Rob Kaufelt still very much in charge and the company as a whole focused on the Kroger business. Still, I learned more here potentially than anywhere else.
I left in 2013 and began work at the Brooklyn Kitchen, a housewares store in Williamsburg. I served as a sort of director of finance, doing analysis and helping with strategy as their durable goods business moved online. I was also learning small business finance so as to better prepare myself for opening my own shop.
I left in 2015 and we opened Foster Sundry in December 2015. We’re now nearly 3 years old, profitable, with 15 employees, and potentially a wine shop on the way!