Longmont 's Cheese Importers finds new life in old building
Some families farm together. Some sell insurance. Some are partners in a law firm. Samm White's family sells cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. "It took a lot of work from the family to make [Cheese Importers] what it is today, but it's our passion," Samm says. "We love it and we do it for the smiles."
Photos by Samm White
Cheese Importers has been a Longmont standby since Samm's mother Linda and late father Lyman incorporated the company in 1976. Two bon vivants who'd met in Europe, the couple began putting importing cheese, and put together a business peddling Wisconsin cheddar and pepper jack to area restaurants and hotels. Six years later, the family moved operations into a cavernous warehouse that became their main retail store and cheese shop.
"It was a big deal for the family," Samm remembers. he and his sister, Clara, wrote their names in the concrete of the store and continue to make their mark on the business, where they now run the day-to-day operations. "It's always been a family-owned business. I remember pulling out pallets and sweeping up dust from when I was a really young kid," Samm says.
By early this year, when the family thought maybe the company had outgrown that space, Cheese Importers had grown into a combination retail store, bistro and cheese warehouse that was a fixture on an out-of-the-way stretch of South Pratt Parkway. "It was off the beaten path," Samm White says. "It was, and still is today, kind of a gem. It's a hidden thing that people can share with their friends and have them go, 'I've never heard of this place?'"
The Whites had their eyes on a potential new home: Longmont's original diesel-fueled power plant, built in 1931. The distinctive, brown-brick building would mean more space for retail and dining, and more eyeballs because of its perch on Main Street. "It was, 'Woohoo! This is gonna be great!' Until we started digging into the floors and finding old diesel fuel tanks that weren't on the plans anywhere, or the power that they thought was 800 amps and really only 400," Samm White recalls.