After spending 16 years in London as a chef, Michael Januska decided it was time to come home. He grew up in Avon Lake, and his family still lives in the area, so he settled in Old Brooklyn.
“The cost of living in Central London is one of the highest in the world,” he says of his overseas home. “My two younger sisters are having kids and I decided it was the rat race or quality of life.”
Januska discovered the art of making cheese while living abroad and decided Old Brooklyn would embrace a quality cheese shop. By the end of October, Januska will open the doors to Old Brooklyn Cheese Company
, 4138 Pearl Road.
“Cheese is simple, but it’s still complex,” Januska says. “I love using only milk and one or two other ingredients and making something quite exquisite and unique.”
Januska turned to the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation
(OBCDC) for assistance in finding the perfect space for making his cheese and serving his customers. Eventually, he secured a 1,200-square-foot storefront in the historic 1895 Krather building in Old Brooklyn’s Design Review District
Januska was particularly attracted to the glass front and 15-foot ceilings. He got a loan to help with financing the shop and started plans to open. “The support from the City of Cleveland and Old Brooklyn has been amazing,” he says.
The feeling is mutual from OBCDC. “For us, Old Brooklyn Cheese Company is the kind of business we know residents want to see in the neighborhood, so it is important to us that [local businesses] feel well-supported and connected to the assistance they need so that they can focus on running a thriving business,” says Rosemary Mudry, OBCDC director of economic development, adding that they were able to connect Januska with small business support services and low-interest financing to establish the company.
“By building great relationships with entrepreneurs in the community, we are excited to continue to attract new business to the neighborhood that meets the needs of residents and provide additional amenities so that Old Brooklyn continues to be a neighborhood of choice in the City of Cleveland.”
As one of only two licensed artisanal cheese makers in Cuyahoga County, Januska will offer an assortment of his cheeses after they have been aged properly for at least 60 days –sometime in December – as well as from Ohio cheesemakers and artisanal cheeses from around the country and world. His first cheese will be an aged Gouda, available in December.
In the basement, Januska is building a 14- by 12-foot aging cave, where he will age his hard and alpine cheeses. He has room to build up to five caves, each for different types of cheeses requiring different humidity levels for aging.
“When I’m done with that one, I will build another one for stinky and soft cheeses,” he says.
Furthermore, Januska is one of only a handful of cheesemakers in the country who ages cheese for other cheesemakers. “It gives them control because the quality is still there,” he explains. “Once it’s vacuum packed and sealed for distribution, the flavor is choked out. I’ve got commitments from other cheesemakers in Ohio, Maine and San Francisco to age their cheese.”
Januska is perhaps most excited about his twist on cloth-banded cheddar – an English technique in which the cheese is wrapped in a cloth dipped in butter or lard before aging. His cloth-banded cheddar will be aged with bacon fat.
“I call it the Old Brooklyn version,” he quips. The cloth-banded cheddar will be aged for 12 months before it’s ready for sampling.
The shop will feature deli-style glass display cases for the cheeses, which will include an assortment of Januska’s cheeses organized by type – washed, or “stinky;” fresh; soft; semi-hard to hard; alpines; and blues.
At the front of the shop will be two big commercial tables where customers can sit down and sample cheeses, as well as Ohio honeys, bread from Blackbird Baking Company
, almonds, dried fruit and locally cured meats.
Patrons can choose three to five cheeses from a selection of 15. The experience will serve as a chance to try some new varieties before buying while also socializing with friends.
“It’s a happy place to go in because no one goes in angry to a cheese shop,” Januska says. “If they’ve never heard of this and taste it and say ‘hey, I like that,’ or if they say ‘I don’t like it, it’s too funky or salty,’ they can try something else.”
Januska says he's thinking of installing a back patio next spring.
Even if customers know exactly what they want, Januska wants Old Brooklyn Cheese Company to be a welcoming place. “It’s a nice, relaxed place to enjoy your cheese with a friend and just relax,” he says. “The tables are casual where everyone can have their cheese and gets to talk and share.”
ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.