Saxelby Cheesemongers Celebrates 10 Years in Business

Anne Saxelby, Feb. 2014.

Anne Saxelby admits she was a little bit nuts in 2006 to open a stall in the Essex Street Market focused on American farmstead cheeses. “It was definitely a crazy idea,” she said during a recent interview. “I started when I was 25. I didn’t want to do anything else. I just wanted to do this.”

But Saxelby and partner Benoit Breal have proved that crazy ideas sometimes work out just fine. In the past month, they celebrated Saxelby Cheesmonger’s 10-year anniversary. Today, they’re going strong on the Lower East Side, but also supplying about 100 restaurants across the city. A few years ago, Edible Manhattan noted that “Saxelby has helped redefine what the very words American cheese even mean.”

Saxelby has built her company into a force on the New York City food scene. Operating from a warehouse in Red Hook, she could have chosen to give up on the Essex Street Market long ago. Instead, she not only stayed put on the Lower East Side, but has become a high profile advocate for her fellow vendors.

“When I opened in 2006,” Saxelby explained, “it was a little bit like the wild, wild west, I guess.”  As a resident of lower Orchard Street, she’d fallen in love with the quirky, historic public market. But in those early days, business was sparse. “The passion to do it is what really sustained me for the first little while,” she said. Eventually, both local customers and destination shoppers found the tiny stall, which now features cheeses from 50 different local farms.

Retail and wholesale customers turned to Saxelby because it offered something they could not find anywhere else.  “Because we’re small,” explained Saxelby, “we handle every wheel through the cave (as the red Hook space is known). “We can kind of make that connection between the farm and the end-user that makes us an attractive purveyor to work with, because we know the cheese inside and out.”

Anne Saxelby fought an unsuccessful (and fairly lonely) battle a few years ago to save the 76-year-old market building. The city, which operates the facility, pushed hard to build a new, modern market as part of the Essex Crossing development project. But even after the initial battle ended, Saxelby stayed engaged. She was instrumental in creating a vendor association, which is helping to assure that merchants make a successful transition to the new building when it opens in two years.

Asked why she’s stuck with it on the Lower East Side all these years, Saxelby acknowledged that doing business in the Essex Street Market can be exhausting. But she continues to believe that its survival as a distinctive part of New York City is critical. “What was appealing to me from the beginning,” said Saxelby, “was being part of this community. From the beginning, the relationships I’ve had with all the other vendors here — it’s something so positive and wonderful… I have come to see everyone in the market as like family.”

In the new market, Saxelby Cheesemongers will have a larger foot print. The new space, featuring a u-shaped counter, will boast 300 square feet (up from 115 now). There will be glass display cases on three sides, and a lot more room to show off a wider variety of cheeses. There’s also talk of setting up a mozzarella-making station and, possibly, offering a selection of charcuterie.

In the meantime, though, there’s still some celebrating to do. Saxelby is hosting a “Cheese Trivia Night” tomorrow evening. You can see details here.

 

 

Talking Public Markets at The Tenement Museum

Morris Vogel, President of the Tenement Museum, introduced panelists (from left) Robert LaValva from the New Amsterdam Market, Andrew Coe of SeriousEats.com, Suzanne Wasserman of The Gotham Center and Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheese

Editor’s note: Here’s our first story from Giacinta Frisillo, The Lo-Down’s newest community contributor:

We stopped by The Tenement Museum Tuesday evening for another excellent edition of their Tenement Talks food series.  Panelists at the event, “Public Markets: Talk and Tasting,” included Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers and Robert LaValva, president of the New Amsterdam Market. They discussed the long entwined history, and future, of public markets in New York City.

The city’s first public market opened its doors in 1675, on the waterfront.  LaValva noted that the city was finally “truly united with the water” bringing the freshness of the shipping trade as close to the hands of the public as possible. As the city grew in size and volume, so did the public markets, reaching double digits for a time. But with the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores on every corner, the number of public markets has dwindled to only four throughout the five boroughs.

CB3 Wants City to Study More Essex Street Market Options

Yesterday, we wrote about the upcoming public hearing regarding the Seward Park redevelopment project.  On October 11th, residents will have the chance to speak out about the “draft scoping document,” the final version of which will guide a comprehensive environmental review on the SPURA site.

The document, released last month, spells out what the city sees as the “maximum” SPURA program. It is their most comprehensive discussion of the project to date. 

Small Business of the Year: Saxelby Cheesemongers

The NYC Small Business Services department named Essex Street Market vendor Saxelby Cheesemongers as its top Manhattan company this week as part of its “Neighborhood Achievement Awards.” The Small Business of the Year Award honors “an entrepreneur whose business has significantly improved its neighborhood or demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community through offering new or enhanced products and services, generating new activity on a commercial strip, attracting new businesses to the area, or providing exceptional employment opportunities.”

Hakki Pizza, LES Entrepreneurs, La Newyorkina, Anne Saxelby

It’s been a big week in restaurant and bar news on the LES. In addition to our stories about APL earlier today and Melt Bakery coming up later, here’s a roundup of other food happenings:

  • Late last night as we passed by with our camera, pizza maestro Hakki Akdeniz and a colleague were hard at work in Hakki’s new shop at 123 Essex Street, getting ready for today’s opening.
  • Babycakes bakery maven Erin McKenna joins the founders of other local success stories (Jon Snyder of Il Laboratorio del Gelato and Luke Holden of Luke’s Lobster) tomorrow for a panel discussion on food entrepreneurship at the James Beard Foundation.
  • Hester Street Fair and New Amsterdam Market paleta peddler La Newyorkina has landed a slightly more permanent spot in Cobble Hill, in a partnership with the Van Horn Sandwich Shop.
  • The Jewish Daily Forward’s blog takes a long view of the Essex Street Market’s future, through the eyes of cheesemonger Anne Saxelby.

Cheesemonger Anne Saxelby: Save the Essex Street Market

We’ve heard from lots of residents determined to save the Essex Street Market from the wrecking ball. Now a high profile merchant, cheesemonger Anne Saxelby, is speaking out about the future of the 70-year old market buildings.

In response to suggestions that the Seward Park redevelopment plan might force the relocation of the Essex Market, Saxelby posted the following letter to supporters, on her web site and in her weekly newsletter:

Cheese & Wine Throwdown!

Here’s something interesting, via cheese monger Ann Saxelby’s blog: a cheese and wine throwdown!  Saxelby Cheesemongers and September Wines will be taking on Formaggio Essex and Discovery Wines. Ann explains: “Attendees will judge six rounds of hard-hitting deliciousness and cast their ballots to decide who the winner will be.”  The event takes place Monday, November 15th, 8pm. The secret location on the LES will be disclosed when you buy your ticket. If you’re interested, email bittersweetsoursalt@gmail.com. Cost: $60.

A Guide to NYC’s Markets – Tonight at Tenement Talks

Karen Seiger, Market Enthusiast, Author, Blogger

Tonight’s Tenement Talk at the Tenement Museuem will feature author and self-titled  “Market Enthusiast,” Karen Seiger, in a discussion about her new guidebook, Markets of New York City: A Guide to the Best Artisan, Farmer, Food, and Flea Markets. Seiger also runs the blog, Markets of New York City.   She will be joined by local artisan Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers and Kimm Alfonso of KimmChi.  FREE // Tuesday, June 15th // 6:30pm // 108 Orchard St.

Tuesday News Links

Political insiders are doing their best to assess the ramifications of yesterday's bizarre coup in Allbany that resulted in Republicans regaining control of the Senate. Late yesterday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was not giving up hope that Democrats could retain control. The chaos in the capitol means that issues like gay marriage, mayoral control of NYC's schools, tenant rights and drug law reform are all now in limbo. The developments are bad news for Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents the LES. It looks like he'll lose his chairmanship of the Cities Committee.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wants to require developers, in some neighborhoods, to address the need for food markets. But the Lower East Side is not one of those neighborhoods.

The Vision Festival kicks off today. We'll have a series of post's starting this afternoon. Until then, have a look at the Village Voice's write up on saxophonist Marshall Allen, one of the highlights of this year's festival.

Metromix gives us a look at The Suffolk, the new "beachy" bar behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.

Our favorite cheese lady, Anne Saxelby, now has her own radio show!

Tuesday News Links

Political insiders are doing their best to assess the ramifications of yesterday's bizarre coup in Allbany that resulted in Republicans regaining control of the Senate. Late yesterday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was not giving up hope that Democrats could retain control. The chaos in the capitol means that issues like gay marriage, mayoral control of NYC's schools, tenant rights and drug law reform are all now in limbo. The developments are bad news for Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents the LES. It looks like he'll lose his chairmanship of the Cities Committee.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wants to require developers, in some neighborhoods, to address the need for food markets. But the Lower East Side is not one of those neighborhoods.

The Vision Festival kicks off today. We'll have a series of post's starting this afternoon. Until then, have a look at the Village Voice's write up on saxophonist Marshall Allen, one of the highlights of this year's festival.

Metromix gives us a look at The Suffolk, the new "beachy" bar behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.

Our favorite cheese lady, Anne Saxelby, now has her own radio show!

15 Seconds – What I Love About the Lower East Side

Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers at the Essex Street Market on what she loves about the Lower East Side.

Posted by: Traven Rice