Janet King of Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese said it was the right time to close the store. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Masterton couple Miles and Janet King knew they were taking a risk when they decided to open their artisan cheese shop, Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese, in Lansdowne 20 years ago.

The store has acted as a place to prepare orders for pick up and also introduce people to the benefits of the couple’s sheep milk cheeses, but now they feel it’s the right time to close the doors.

“I’ve decided to retire because a wise person said to me, ‘retire while you are still capable and have strong men to help’,” Janet said.

Labelling cheeses and processing orders from the online store will be carried out by Janet at home instead.

“Production will continue as normal,” she said.

The couple were at least 10 years ahead of the curve when they decided to start with their sheep milk cheeses.

“It’s an unusual shop and we took a punt on it,” she said.

“The milking sheep genetics had just arrived in New Zealand.

“We had bought some land near town and came from a farming background, so my husband set about making the sheep breed better – now we own the DairyMeade breed.”

These days, there are hundreds of artisan cheeses and cheese makers, she said.

“We are specialists in sheep milk so get a lot of people with dietary requirements or people from countries where sheep milk is more commonly used.

“The most satisfying aspect has been being able to provide cheeses for children with allergies and watching them blossom.”

Over the past 20 years, she estimated she had packed an average of eight tonnes of cheese a year.

She recommended the havarti cheese as a good starting type but said her favourite was the cumin gouda.

The store has also become well known for its gift baskets with local goodies – she has put together more than 8000 and has even had orders from countries like South Africa, Scotland and France.

The Wairarapa cheese names, like Tinui Blue and Ngawi Brie, bring a smile to people who might be homesick for Wairarapa, she said.

Janet said she would miss the loyal customer bases and fortnightly regulars, some who had been coming to the store for 17 years.

“The thing I’m really going to miss are the people. I have always enjoyed their company.”

She and Miles would still attend events such as the Wairarapa Farmers Market and next year’s Great Eketahuna Cheese Festival.

The store’s last day will be July 31.

After that, Kingsmeade Artisan Cheeses can still be purchased from stockists or online at: kingsmeadecheese.co.nz/order