A couple who are veterans of two famous American cheese shops – Cowgirl Creamery in California and Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts – plan to open a cheese shop in Portland early this summer.

The Cheese Shop of Portland will be located in a renovated shipping container at 93 Washington Ave., part of a new project from developer Jed Harris of Cotton Street Holdings to create new start-up spaces in the city for retailers.

Mary and Will Sissle, married just six months ago, said they decided to settle in Portland and start their business here in part because Mary is from Cape Elizabeth, but also because Portland is “such an amazing food town and there’s not a dedicated, cut-to-order full service cheese shop within the Portland city limits specializing in high quality cheese as their prime focus,” Mary Sissle said.

The closest dedicated cheese shop to Portland is The Cheese Iron in Scarborough, about eight miles from downtown Portland. K. Horton Specialty Foods, which sold many local cheeses in the Public Market House in Monument Square, closed last year after 18 years in business.

“Will and I have worked in the cheese industry approaching 10 years now,” she said, “and it has just always been something we’ve wanted to do, to open a shop of our own. We’ve worked in distribution, we’ve worked in the retail end of things, and it’s just been a dream of ours.”

The Sissles view the shipping container project as an easy way to jump-start their business on a small scale before, they hope, growing into a more traditional brick-and-mortar store. They plan to open the store in mid- to late June.

Will Sissle said the shop will focus on high-quality cheeses from all over, including classic European cheeses such as comté.

“It’s something that’s lesser known in the American market, where a lot of people know brie and camembert,” he said. “We want to have a focus on this big mountain cheese that has a lot of nuanced flavor and is versatile.”

The Cheese Shop of Portland will also carry local and regional cheeses, including goat cheese from Ruggles Hill Creamery in Hardwick, Massachusetts.

“Tricia Smith is the cheesemaker and herd manager of a very small pack of goats,” he said, describing the small creamery just west of Boston. I think right now she has 18 goats that she milks. They all have their own names, and she makes really cool, delicate goats milk cheeses, loosely based on French cheeses. We have an agreement with her that we will be the only people carrying it in Maine.”

Sissle said they also plan to visit a few Maine creameries, before committing to local producers.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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