First-time entrepreneur finds her independence in downtown Farmington

It was 2014 when Kendra and Joe Mantey first opened The Cheese Lady in downtown Farmington, a specialty cheese shop that quickly became a fixture of the community here. But as the calendar pages turned, the Manteys decided it was time to sell the business. Lucky enough, their neighbor, Lindsay Kennedy, was looking for something of her own.

A veteran of the food and beverage business for nearly 20 years, Lindsay Kennedy’s own specialty is wine. Her initial aim was to combine her passion for wine with The Cheese Lady’s well-established stock – as natural a pairing as there ever was one – and she purchased the business in September 2022. The Cheese Lady, however, is part of a larger franchise based in west Michigan and, as she got acquainted with her new business, Kennedy found that she and her customers might be better served if she struck off on her own. No hard feelings held against the larger chain, of course, but when she was granted the opportunity to take the store independent, she made the gutsy decision to go for it.

Introducing Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods. Fans of The Cheese Lady can be reassured that Kennedy still carries the hard-to-find specialty cheeses that customers have come to expect, but with the added benefit of an impressive array of wines, specialty foods, and plenty more. We spoke with Lindsay about the new shop, and the decision to strike off on her own.

Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods is located at 33041 Grand River Ave. in downtown Farmington.Metromode: The Cheese Lady is now Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods. Tell us about the change.

Lindsay Kennedy: I chose the name Dolcetto because it's one of my favorite grape varieties and it’s something that wine drinkers are going to recognize. The wines we carry all have great stories, origins, products, and farming practices – things that I'm excited about.

I don't know how familiar you are with the grape Dolcetto. But it translates to “little sweet,” and it's a term of endearment the producers give to the grapes. And in the region of Italy that Dolcetto comes from, these producers are also making really expensive Barolo and Barbaresco wines. But when they go to each other's homes, they present the Dolcetto – their workhorse – because if you're doing the basic things right, everything else you’re doing should be fantastic. That’s exactly what I want to do. I want everything from to be perfect from the ground up. I want it to be done right and for the right reasons.

Metromode: How does the store look today?

Lindsay: We still have over 100 different cheeses, and we focus on artisanal and farmstead-style cheeses while mindful to their origins. I'm expanding the wine selection. I have everyday pricing, and I’ll eventually have a few higher-end things but mostly everyday beverages. And then we're going to start having more specialty foods. If you call me up and say, “I'm trying to make this recipe but I can't find this special ingredient,” I'll do the research and try to find that for you and make sure you're getting good quality. I don't feel like we have that in Farmington yet. Ferndale has its little niche of quality food markets, and then obviously if you go down to Detroit there's so much incredible food. But we don't have that in Farmington yet so I really want to help connect people to great food experiences.

One of the things I offer is I have a Perfect Bite Club. Each month, it's one wine, one cheese, and one food item. And I'm very honest, it's not a club for everybody. Maybe it’s a club for somebody who's adventurous and wants to explore new regions and new foods and pairings that you might not think of. Like last month we had Priorat, which is a type of wine that doesn't really have much recognition in the U.S. And then we paired it with a cheese with cherry-jalapeno jam and Marcona almonds. It was a little out there but it was such a great pairing and it created this extra experience that you wouldn't have if you just had any of the elements by themselves.

"Ferndale has its little niche of quality food markets, and then obviously if you go down to Detroit there's so much incredible food. But we don't have that in Farmington yet so I really want to help connect people to great food experiences," says Lindsay Kennedy, owner of Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods.

Metromode: Can you tell us about taking the shop independent, and what that means for you?

Lindsay: In going independent, we can better listen to our community. If there's a need in the community, we can pivot and do that as a specialty store. Like during Christmas, I really wanted to bring in a quality panettone, which is an Italian cake that is really popular around Christmas. And (before going independent), I was limited in my options. I want to choose and bring in the best quality items I can find. Maybe the panettone only brings in 12 people who want it, but those are 12 people that are really excited about getting it. Those needs can't be met unless we have the ability to pivot.

Metromode: When you were deciding to go independent, what did you have to consider?

Lindsay: Well, I was very terrified, because I hate upsetting people and I knew that there was a risk of losing friendships with those that are within the franchise. I know that some of our loyal long-term guests might not be happy about the change. But at the end of the day, I need people to know that my team is still the same team and we're all just as excited to take care of our guests and make sure that their needs are met. And we want to offer them more, which we really couldn't have done in our former form.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods is located at 33041 Grand River Ave. in downtown Farmington.
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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.