John Loomis, owner of The Cheese Shop of Saline, wants to share his passion for cheese. In his specialty store, one can expect to find plenty of gourmet snacks and drinks to build a perfect summer picnic, a gift basket or dinner party, but above all else, you won’t want to leave without experiencing the selection of fine European and North American cheese, many which come from cheesemakers that Loomis grew up with in the industry.
Whether you’re a child or a seasoned cheese lover, Loomis wants you to sample the collection of artisanal cheeses in his shop, including the fresh mozzarella that Loomis hand-stretches daily.
“My goal is to find at least one cheese that you don’t like,” said Loomis. “If you end up liking every sample, that usually means that I haven’t challenged you to try something new.”
To keep his selection fresh, Loomis provides a variety cheeses that are constantly evolving and range in flavor. “I usually like to add one or two unique cheeses to the mix of everyday cheeses,” Loomis said.
With years of experience working with cheesemakers in Europe and co-founding Zingerman’s Creamery, you won’t find many others more experienced in fine cheese than Loomis. But it’s the combination of his passion and his casual demeanor that sets The Cheese Shop of Saline apart from other specialty cheese shops. His approachability quickly diminishes any expectations of pretentiousness that a specialty store like his might imply, while still offering the accessibility to unique foods and wine that are either difficult to find or aren’t widely known.
Ultimately, Loomis wants to give his customers an opportunity to feel good about experiencing the products in his store.
“I want to try to make food more fun,” Loomis said. As it relates to sampling cheese, Loomis has a philosophy to encourage customers to “taste before purchase.”
“We want our customers to love what they buy and often insist that they taste what they want to buy before leaving the store,” Loomis said.
Every other Thursday evening, Loomis also offers free wine and cheese tasting events, which gives his customers an opportunity to try value wines and craft beer that they may never heard of before, along with complimentary cheese pairings. This summer, monthly workshops and classes will also be offered.
As The Cheese Shop of Saline is becoming more established, Loomis and his wife, Ruth, have been gradually offering more selection. Earlier this year, they introduced “I’m not cooking tonight” meat-and-cheese trays every Sunday for those who want to forgo making dinner. They also started offering a daily menu of gourmet sandwiches filled with flavorful cheese and cured meats. Because of the positive response he’s received, Loomis is already working on expanding his menu. Most recently, Loomis launched fudgsicles, popsicles and chocolate-covered bananas that proved to be so popular that a line extended outside to North Ann Arbor Street during the Memorial Day parade. In addition to his expanding menu, Loomis also has a vision to eventually add customer seating in the store; however, it may take some time and most likely won’t happen soon.
Loomis, who has probably tried almost every type cheese, doesn’t necessarily have a standout cheese that he prefers, but instead enjoys helping his customers pinpoint their favorites by exploring unique qualities and flavors. For Loomis, the experience is a social one.
“I couldn’t tell you what my favorite cheese is, but I can probably tell you who I was with when I was eating it,” said Loomis.
His enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s apparent that he enjoys sharing his knowledge, tips, and even his own personal stories, so that every visit makes it worth your time. If you want to be truly adventurous the next time you visit, be sure to ask for a sample of the one of stronger-flavored cheeses that reminds Loomis of a musty basement.
John Loomis and his wife Ruth are founders of The Cheese Shop of Saline, which is located at 98 N. Ann Arbor St. in Downtown Saline.