The Community of Cheese

Spring 2020 –  NPR recently ran a segment, titled, “A Bookstore In England Issues A Despondent Tweet — And Enjoys An Unexpected Boost”:

“Now a story of a very bad day that turned into a very good day. First, the bad. It was a rainy, gloomy day in Hampshire, England. And a 100-year-old bookstore closed out the till without selling a single book, not even a bookmark—nothing, zilch. So the guy behind that very quiet till tweeted a despondent tweet, but it went viral and produced the very good day that followed with hundreds of new orders.”

It was a piece both heartwarming and despondent at the same time. On the one hand, it was wonderful to hear about people from all over acting to support this book store. Yet, it was also sad because these wonderful people did not support the bookstore enough to sustain its sales up to this point. It was almost like a charitable donation. Preserving an institution like this independent bookstore was something people thought worthy of their support, but it was not a natural outgrowth of their normal purchasing behavior.

In this issue, you will see a piece written by Tom Gresham, titled, Online Opportunities, which talks about how cheese producers and retailers are dealing with the opportunity to sell online. It is challenging. Maintaining proper temperature control during transport, thus making sure the cheese does not get either too hot or too cold before it arrives, is not easy.

Of course, some people live too distant from stores that sell a broad selection of specialty cheese and have a need for these services. Even if the selection is constrained, it is better than that available in many rural areas. If, however, you live closer to better retailers, there is much to be said for the opportunity and the pleasure of going out to stores and interacting with cheesemongers. One can often sample interesting cheeses and talk to the cheesemonger about his favorites and the merit of each cheese.

There is a place for everything, and that includes buying cheese online. However, building the community of cheese—an interactive community where one exchanges ideas and learns as one engages—is something very special.

The book store story is unavoidably poignant because books have changed. Although, of course, some will always appreciate the paper volumes of old, today’s consumer is likely to appreciate the ease and convenience of electronic distribution of books.

Whereas reading is a mostly solitary activity, eating is often communal. It will be a very good thing to keep ourselves open to shopping, bargaining, learning and eating…. together.    CC