by Pete Mazzaccaro
John Ingersoll has been working in the Chestnut Hill food business for a long time.
He first started working for the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop in 1973 and kept coming back for holiday and summer work off and on while a college student.
He was hoping for a career in biomedical ethics and had a degree in philosophy and bioethics.
But in 1982, he became a partner at the Cheese Shop and stayed there until 2012.
“I left because I wanted to do my own thing,” Ingersoll said.
That thing is Evergreen Cheese, which opened its doors on Saturday, Dec. 22, at 184 E .Evergreen Ave., next door to the Top of the Hill Deli and Market.
The store is a small, 400-square-foot space dominated by a large case of cheeses and meats – from blue cheese to Gruyere, Serrano ham and prosciutto. Next to that case is another stocked with spreads, pates, olives, peppers and sausages.
He will add more as time goes on, including breads from The Art of Bread in Narberth, which will be delivered fresh, daily.
“I really wanted to do something that was manageable,” Ingersoll said. “I did a lot of traveling in the course of the last year and found inspiration in San Francisco, a shop in the Ferry Building [on San Francisco's famous Embarcadero] called the Cowgirl Creamery. The focus is on cheese, meats, small things you can pick up and take out.”
Ingersoll said that he has a food preparation license and expects to add grilled paninis, featuring his shop’s cheeses and meats, and fresh cheese plates, perhaps with fruit. He’ll add some cafe seating in front of his shop.
The interior of the shop itself is a transformation of what was Chestnut Hill Gifts, a card and gift shop. All of the old paneled walls and drop ceiling were removed. The space behind the counter is tiled, from floor to ceiling. Custom wood countertops are behind and next to the cheese case, and the opposite wall is covered in an attractive wood that once served as the side of a barn.
The countertops and the barn board were done by Stable Tables in Flourtown.
Response to the weeks-old business has been better than Ingersoll expected.
“It’s been great so far,” he said. “There are many people I know who come in but many more than that who I don’t. We had a phenomenal New Years Eve. The buzz has been great.”
Ingersoll said he’s been using Facebook to get the word out about the store. In fact, the Local learned about the store’s opening day through a re-shared Facebook post. Within a week of opening, the Evergreen Cheese Facebook page attracted 500 likes, a pretty healthy number in a very short time span.
The technology doesn’t stop there. Ingersoll is using Square, the iPad-based cash register service that also allows customers to store their card information with the shop so they can charge purchases without showing Ingersoll a thing.
Ingersoll said what prompted him to stay in the food business is that he just enjoys it.
“I love working with people and enjoy the trust those people put in me,” he said. Indeed, during an interview, the customers who came into the shop asked not for specifics, but for Ingersoll’s suggestions.
“I also love cooking and food,” he said. “It’s always been a part of me.”
Beyond growing the retail end of the business, Ingersoll said that he expects to keep busy with catering work, a service he started after leaving the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop.
“I cater openings for the Gravers Lane Gallery probably once a month,” he said. “They will call and say they need cheese, tell me how many people and what the budget is. I’ll bring a large plate or two of cheese and some fruit, like grapes, strawberries. It’s fun.”
Evergreen Cheese is at 184 E. Evergreen St. Phone is 215-248-1957. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.