Kristi Barber with The Cheese Cottage

Kristi Barber with The Cheese Cottage

This week's Mobile AL business owner, Kristi Barber, sits down with Marcus to talk all about her journey from the gas and oil industry to opening The Cheese Cottage. The appreciation for socialization and gathering around food pushed Kristi to early retirement and a growing knowledge of cheese. Hungry yet? Let’s dive into this week’s podcast.

Transcript:

Kristi: Okay, I'm Kristy Barber with The Cheese Cottage.

Marcus: Yay. Well I'm glad to have you here. You have been getting all kinds of great reviews and also think it's just cool for a couple of different reasons. Like I was mentioning to you, the building that you are occupying, just driving by or walking by that building and thinking what the heck is anybody going to use that for? But also because you are bringing something new to St. Louis Street. There's not a whole lot of retail or food or restaurants or anything on St. Louis Street, so I'm excited to have you here as well for that reason.

Kristi: Thanks for having me.

Marcus: Yeah. Well we always get some backstory about the person who we're interviewing, so why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? Did you grow up here, are you married, did you go to school here, did you go to college and if you did where'd you go? Give us some information about who you are.

Kristi: Well I was born and raised in Irvington, Alabama, just south of here. Married my high school sweetheart that was from Bayou La Batre of all places. We had three wonderful children, all boys and they certainly made me rough around the edges. And I worked with a major oil and gas company and I don't mind saying it on here, it was Chevron. Started my career in supply chain management of all things, procurement, warehousing, buying, contracts things like that. I did that at the Pascagoula Refinery, which is my Mississippi connection. Did that for many years and then struck off on the career path with Chevron down their management chain and our first move was to Vancouver, British Columbia on the West Coast just above Seattle. And we brought our boys and husband came along and that was a great experience. Then we started moving and it ended up being San Ramon, California. Our last assignment was in Houston, had Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Cape Town, lots of moves, which inherently added to the flavor and the vibe of The Cheese Cottage as you feel it today. Some of those were just work trips, some of them were vacation, some of them were assignments, things like that but I think all of those experiences I borrowed, bagged and stole from, just to create-

Marcus: Where you are today.

Kristi: Yeah, to create The Cheese Cottage and ultimately come back home.

Marcus: Yeah we are the culmination of our life experiences, right?

Kristi: Absolutely.

Marcus: Yeah. It's interesting, I've known a number of people that have gone into management with oil and gas industry and it is, if you start going down that path, you are moving to wherever the need is. But along with that comes a lot of great experiences, especially when it comes to management and leadership and all of those things. It's cool that you have that experience because I don't have to tell you this, you know this. The food industry is one of the hardest, owning a restaurant is like the chance of success it's not very great but with all the experience you have as far as management goes and leadership and stuff, I would say that definitely puts you on the right foot for being successful.

Kristi: And I will say, this is probably the hardest I've ever worked but the most rewarding at the same time. You talk about experiences and traveling the world and all the sexy things about having a corporate job and having that responsibility. And I'm not discounting at all, the experiences and the fun and the things that I got to see and do and my children and husband have gotten to do. I will say you do start to long for roots and community and it doesn't matter where that is. Knowing that you're going to be moving almost like the military, every few years, you tend not to go as deep in your roots as you want to go or you long to go. And I think that's what really drew me to taking the early retirement last year and saying, "What could I do and still be active and give back to a community like Mobile, which is home and still fulfill my desire to be a contributing member of society?" And so this is hard work, I don't want to discount it at all and you keep saying, "Restaurant." I like to bill us as a deli and that's a little nuance but it is hard but it is rewarding.

Marcus: Yeah. I can relate because my wife is an air force brat and it has taken her some getting used to in not moving every three or four years. To the point where when we first moved here it was really stressful because around that three or four year mark, she was getting almost like she had the itches. She just felt like she really needed to go some place and I'm like, "Listen, we're setting up roots here. This is our new home, we have to make this our place where we can get involved and make friends and be a part of the community and stuff like that." It's taken some getting used to for her especially and also for myself. I grew up in the DC area and I'm from that area and grew up there and so it's a little bit weird being in a smaller market. I did the corporate thing for a long time and I would agree with you, the experiences of running your own business while more difficult, are extremely rewarding so it's exciting stuff.

Kristi: You talk about the itch to move. We've been back, I did early retirement almost a year ago this month and I'm not here to say that the itch won't come. For right now my husband and I, we are so flaky in wherever we live because we have been so used to moving. We're renting now because we do like to purge our closets every few years. I could tell you we're the best movers on earth I think.

Marcus: That's wild. Well tell us what your first job was and any lessons that you may have learned from that.

Kristi: My first job, oh my goodness. I don't know, I usually say my first job was grading and picking tomatoes with my grandfather and I call it a job because he paid during the summer.

Marcus: There were expectations.

Kristi: There were expectations and he had higher expectations for my sister and I than other workers. And so I think what I learned from that one is, for you I mean even the pennies matter, the dime, the nickels those matter. And if you're diligent enough and you do hard work and you put your nose down and you just do the best you can at whatever you're doing, it will show up in a reward. I think that did translate over into my professional career. I started with Chevron as a contractor in the mail room of all things. I did.

Marcus: Come on.

Kristi: I did, I started in the mail room and it was supposed to be this summer job. I think I was 18 or 19 years old. I had not chosen to go off to college. I'd graduated high school and then decided just to go to work and then I ultimately did get my education, I think I was 32. But the thing I learned about that was every element, every piece of a puzzle, whether it's a large corporation or The Cheese Cottage, they're important. The front of the house, the back of the house, the person that buses the tables, to the mail clerk that delivers the mail, they are all important and to make them all feel that way contributes to the success of whatever you're doing. And so even in this Cheese Cottage that I have here, I don't want to say dissension but having not worked as an owner of a restaurant, deli type business, call me naïve. I didn't realize that there was this front of the house, back of the house type dynamic and then all of a sudden I hear somebody in the back of the house insinuates somebody in the front of the house wasn't contributing because they're maybe wasn't as physical as they were doing or the hours weren't-

Marcus: Somebody's always working hardest.

Kristi: But that doesn't matter if it's oil and gas or The Cheese Cottage, it's going to happen. I've started to incorporate some of this stuff about team building and role swapping and you get to appreciate the other person's job because now you know what they do. And if they're not good at what they do, it impacts how well you're able to deliver.

Marcus: That's really cool.

Kristi: And so those little things like that, I'm able to really key in pretty quickly because of those early jobs and those early experiences.

Marcus: You mentioned that you did go back and get your education. Do you mind me asking what your degree was in and where you went?

Kristi: BS in business and University of Colorado of all things. I did it while I was in Vancouver. Yeah it is a roundabout way of getting my education in business, yeah.

Marcus: Yeah I mean I get the sense, that's why I asked because I get the sense that you have a strong background in business, business management. Somebody with that background is going to think about those kinds of things. Like I'm going to teach these people how each of those sides work, so that they have a deeper appreciation, which is not something that a lot of people would think of. Now how did you arrive at The Cheese Cottage? I mean do you just love cheese or-

Kristi: I get that question a lot, so I love cheese. I think I love food but when I think about all of the travels and even in your own back yard what I enjoy more than anything is the socialization around food. Whether it's a crawfish boil, whether it's a, they call it a braai in Cape Town where they barbecue in the back yard, it's an event, everybody comes over. And so everywhere I've gone or even here in Mobile, food is an event and if I think about cheese and how that fits into it, the Europeans really, they have the ability to create a European crawfish boil around a cheese board. And so they talk about the cheese, they talk about the nuances and how the wine pairs with it and what goes well and what doesn't and the cheese becomes an event. And I think that's what when I envisioned doing The Cheese Cottage here in Mobile, I was thinking okay so what food could we expand upon and create this sense of community and this event around? Crawfish has been done and it's done very well by a lot of people. Fine dining experiences are done very well. Wine experiences, we have some fantastic wine bars around the area and I am not professing to know a lot about wine, I know what I like. And so I said, "Well if I have to do one thing what would it be?" And cheese was the element that seemed to keep coming up and so because of that, I had a limited knowledge of cheese. And I said, "Well how would I get that knowledge that I need to become proficient in it and then ultimately do the business of The Cheese Cottage?" And so when I did early retirement, actually two months before I retired we took vacation and we went around the Southeast to seven different dairies and creameries. I called them up I said, "Look, this is what I'm thinking about doing. I'm opening a place in Mobile." I didn't even have a location yet but I said, "I better learn quickly about cheese and what makes cheese and try to source some local and regional stuff." We did that and the more I learned the more I liked and became really invested in learning more.

Marcus: I will admit that I have not had the chance to eat at your establishment in a word. I didn't realize, are you carrying a lot of local cheeses then? Is it-

Kristi: Yeah I would say about 40% of what we carry is what I consider local and local's anywhere I can drive in five hours.

Marcus: Yeah that is so cool because I know that there are a number, there used to be a hydroponic farm over on the Eastern Shore and Spanish Fort. They would get, I want to say it was goat cheese and from somewhere out here locally and I would get that on occasion and it was phenomenal. And so I knew that there were people that were doing butter and even bacon. Billy's Bacon is somebody who's been on the podcast before and he smokes the bacon and prepares it here but those hogs are actually from outside of the area but these are folks that are actually doing it here as well. But I just think it's cool that you made that part of the aspect of what you're trying to do is building the audience for those cheeses as well.

Kristi: Yeah so some of the places we visited, they do not have a distributor network. Some of them do, so larger distributors like European Imports, Gourmet Foods International, any of those specialty type places, these local places have networked in but the demand for their cheeses is not large enough for those distributors to I guess, carry them consistently. And so by me going and visiting with them, the ones that didn't have a distributor network or the ones that did, established that one-on-one relationship and now I'm able to get their cheeses in more of a, I guess a sustainable source than maybe others would. I do have some unique offerings that you're not going to find anywhere else, not even at the larger cheese places like Murray's in New York or Beatrice in Seattle or St. James because of that local-

Marcus: That is just so cool. I don't know how many of the podcasts you've listened to and we don't talk about this on all of them, but the whole reason why we started this podcast was to amplify the voices of the business owners that were starting these cool businesses. Because at the time I was sitting at a dinner table with two guys and neither of them would be names if I told you who they were, you wouldn't know either of their names. In DC there are no real small businesses, there's not the ecosystem that there is here for small and medium sized businesses. And so I wanted to share those stories and I just think it's cool because in your own way you're doing that same thing. But you're doing it for those cheese manufacturers, that would never really have that audience and now they're building an audience here with constant need.

Kristi: They are the coolest people too. They have actual farmsteads or they go to their farmers markets on Saturday. Now they have to pass USDA regulations and make sure that they've passed all the code requirements for making cheese because it's extensive. That was one of the things that we learned quickly. I was thinking oh cheese, it's going to have a cheese cave and it's going to be this sexy wheels and mold and all this great stuff.

Marcus: Most people don't think of mold as sexy, but yeah I'll give it to you it's cheese.

Kristi: Yeah well it is sexy on cheese I'm telling you. And so when we went around to these places, we realized quickly it's a science. It's like walking into a laboratory. They have the grass reading the temperatures of the milk and long something sat there and everyone has the white lab coats and the booties that cover the shoes and the hair. It's a lot of science that goes into these pretty simplistic operations from the outside but they're complex on the inside. And it's very interesting seeing a lot of these local folks with that.

Marcus: I have to ask the question, I'm going to put you on the spot here.

Kristi: Oh no.

Marcus: We're going to make some enemies and we're going to make some friends. You've done all this traveling, you've tried all these various cheeses, what's your favorite?

Kristi: It depends on the day.

Marcus: Oh come on now.

Kristi: I'm from the corporate world, that's the answer that I'm going to give you. I should have been a politician right.

Marcus: All equally. Give me a break.

Kristi: It does depend on the day. Right now today it's this one called Coppinger from Sequatchie Farm, or Sequatchie Cove at the Tennessee-Alabama line, that's one of our local ones. It has this beautiful line of vegetable ash in it and you taste it and you're like, "Uh it's just a simple farm style cheese." but it becomes more complex the more you let it linger on the tongue and it's just a really nice cheese and it's affordable, that's what I like about it too so anybody can enjoy it.

Marcus: Come on, anybody that's listening to this podcast for any episode, knows I love food. It's amazing I'm not 400 pounds. And I do really like cheese and I'm all about if it's got mold or whatever I get it, I love blue cheese and all that stuff and goat cheeses and all kinds of stuff. But most people don't understand, they just think of cheese like well I'm going to go and I'm going to get American cheese or cheddar cheese or Colby if I'm getting really wild. And I'm thinking, yeah but you're missing out on a whole different ... We used to have little gatherings and get a bottle of wine and some brie and some fresh bread or something along those lines. And then as you start to dive into this, I don't have enough experience to talk with you about cheese but I mean we've experimented some with some of the local cheeses as well. And I love it because there is complexities almost like a wine because depending in what the animals are eating, what may be native to that area whether it's blue fescue grass or if it's more southern so southern turfs and stuff like that. I mean depending on what they're eating is going to have a different taste.

Kristi: It does and the challenge that you talked about of not having the experience and not being able to try different things basically, so hopefully we're solving that for Mobile because we do cheese tastings. I told you I have 104 106 cheeses.

Marcus: That might be the end of me. I'm sorry, say that again?

Kristi: Yeah every week I have six cheeses that I feature and you come in anytime we're open and you come up to the counter, belly up to the bar. And I talk to you about each of the cheese and I tell you about the nuances you should, almost like a wine tasting. Now people say, "Oh I don't want to do a tasting because I'm full." You get a tiny little piece.

Marcus: Yeah you're not giving them a whole ... yeah.

Kristi: Yeah I'd go broke if I were giving out slices of cheese, but I do get to educate you about those nuances you talked about with the grass fed milk or this one's rubbed in Tennessee whisky or different things like that.

Marcus: Come on now. Okay stop the recording, let's go try some cheese.

Kristi: But it's supposed to be educational to start to educate all of us about the different nuances that are out there.

Marcus: Yeah, no that is so cool. Wow I had no idea, so I'm really excited that you've made the decision to also just be downtown because it seems like there was a billboard that was on I10 and it said something along the lines of, "There are 43 independently owned restaurants in downtown Mobile." I think that number is either accurate or probably low at this point because there have been so many people that have located down here. And it's nice to see the ecosystem growing in that respect because the more restaurants that locate down here the more people think of downtown Mobile as a place that they want to come. And it creates this snowball effect where if they're just coming down here well they're just going to try different places and stuff like that. It's very cool. Now if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?

Kristi: Oh my goodness. I don't think you can do enough research in preparation. We've been preparing for The Cheese Cottage since ... I don't know. I resurrected a business plan that I had done for something else. It wasn't cheese related but it was owning my own business, I guess about four years ago and so I've been toying with the idea for four years and I didn't just jump in four years ago and say, "This is what I want to do." And so the actual Cheese Cottage and the decision to do this concept, came about maybe 14, 15 months ago. People come into The Cheese Cottage now and they say, "Oh I just love that detail." or "I love the fact that you did this." Well that didn't happen yesterday, it happened over the course of these last 14 or 15 months. I don't think you can ever know enough about what you're approaching. Preparation to me means research your topic. Ask others, lean on others that have been through it and done it. Admit when you don't know something because that's human nature to-

Marcus: That happens daily. Yeah.

Kristi: And so if you want to be successful you need to admit when you're at your limit and pull on others to help you along. Do it with the right intent. The interesting thing that I found about Mobile and downtown specifically, is I've had some of our fine dining and casual dining restaurants come in, introduce themselves, ask me, "Did I need anything?" And I reciprocated with my limited ability to help them at this point. But hopefully when I see others coming into the market, regardless of what their small business platform is, restaurant, deli, it doesn't matter, dry cleaner, I hope I'm able to pay back in that way because that's been something that's really surprised me. Not about Mobile or Mobile Yen's but just about the fact that we could be seen as competitors in the same market but we're all in this together. And they're very supportive of what I'm doing and they want to see how they can help.

Marcus: I agree with you and I think what is cool about that is that there's this undercurrent of people wanting to see Mobile finally. We've talked forever about and I'm not even from here but I remember even moving here it was like you just don't go downtown. There's always been this desire to see Mobile come about and become something different than what it's been in the past. And I think there's this undercurrent now of people that are actually making that happen and they can see when somebody else is working to the same effect. And so there is a lot more desire to work together because as long as you're moving in that direction and you're being helpful and kind and treating people with respect and stuff like that, they want to see you succeed. Because even though we're all individually doing it in our own way, we're all trying to move Mobile in that direction, there's something bigger. You mentioned one of the reasons why you wanted to be downtown is because you wanted to help effect the community and be a producing member of the Mobile society. There have been a number of interviews that we've done where people have said something along those same lines. Like, "We just wanted to be part of all the cool stuff that was happening downtown and the changes happening here." and stuff like that. I just think it's cool because I've noticed a lot of the same comradery type spirit that is happening down here.

Kristi: I think I said it before the interview started that we're trying to be your happy hour place. And there is nothing more than I like for a customer to say, I say, "Well are you headed somewhere else for dinner?" and they say, "Why yes we are." and I'm able to give them a ton of recommendations and send business their way. That's exciting.

Marcus: You hear that folks? If you're a restaurateur, you might want to make friends with this lady because she's sending people out. Are there any books, podcasts, people or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?

Kristi: I would say not directly current, I would say.

Marcus: Sure, it doesn't have to be.

Kristi: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that begin with the end in mind. That is something that I lived by even washing clothes, much less opening a Cheese Cottage. That's my number one principle-

Marcus: See you missed a joke here, that was the perfect time for you to say, "Who Moved My Cheese?"

Kristi: I know.

Marcus: ... was the book. No I'm just playing. Yeah for those of you who that don't know, Who Moved My Cheese was a book back in the '90s or something like that, that was really big in the business circles. You were saying, "Begin with the end in mind."

Kristi: The Seven Habits, those are something to live by back then but my most recent book is the Oxford Dictionary of Cheeses, I must say. I have that.

Marcus: Really, there's a such thing?

Kristi: There is such a thing.

Marcus: Wow.

Kristi: It's under my counter at The Cheese Cottage for my new employees because even me, inevitably someone will come in and ask for a cheese that I have never heard of because there's so many out there. Any cheese maker can name their cheese and come up with a recipe and I'd whip out the old Oxford Dictionary and say, "Where in the world is this one?"

Marcus: If somebody come to you for something along those lines, is that something you're able to get for them?

Kristi: Yes so what I do, I've had three requests today believe it or not, right before I came. They asked me to source things and then I go out and I source it. Then I'm asking myself some questions from a business standpoint. "Can I economically bring this product in? Are imports to high? Is the expiration or sell-by date too short?" I mean if I buy an 83 pound wheel and I have to sell it in two weeks, that's not going to really balance the books. And so I have to ask all those questions and then price it out, call the person back and then we make a decision to bring it in or not but we've done that with some pretty interesting stuff.

Marcus: That's cool. I would imagine that it also brings you, it also helps you because you're seeing things that you wouldn't normally have seen.

Kristi: Exactly.

Marcus: What's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business because you've had a lot of business experience. Actually, was there anything that you were like, "I totally missed that one."

Kristi: Yeah. Let's see, what surprised me the most? Okay so I tend to, this is just my personality, this has nothing to do with experience. I tend to make assumptions that when I give pretty clear direction in my mind, that different people take it different ways. And so the surprise has been even the most common sense type activities, they have to be instructional with new employees. Things that I think is just inherent knowledge in the restaurant industry. "Hey a customer needs extra napkins." Now I'm having to say to staff and others, "Recognize when a customer needs an extra napkin, that's good customer-"

Marcus: Before they ask for it.

Kristi: Right exactly, that's what I want us to be known as, really good customer service and it's things like that, that are inherent to me and I've assumed they're inherent in others and they're not.

Marcus: I don't know that you necessarily have this problem because if I remember correctly, you have more like a picnic table style setup outside.

Kristi: I do.

Marcus: But one of the things that irks me when I go to restaurants is when I sit down and the tables are rickety or rocking. We went some place the other day and I won't say where it was because it was a local restaurant. But I sat down and I literally thought that the table was going to fall over. My immediate thought was it was dangerous because I leaned into it and it wasn't just a little wobble, it was the table ... And so we figured out what happened is the legs, it only had two of the feet on the legs and they had literally turned to the point where there were no legs holding it up. And I was thinking, first of all this is just a bad thing but how did the person that bused the table miss that?

Kristi: That's what I'm talking about.

Marcus: It's the small details-

Kristi: It's the details.

Marcus: ... because that goes into the brand of your experience with that. And I'm going back, it wasn't a deal buster or anything like that but those details matter when it comes to someone's experience, which is all part of the larger brand of an organization.

Kristi: Absolutely and I did have the leg problem the first week. One of the little plastic feet had fallen out and that night when we were putting away the tables, I noticed somebody had folded up their paper towel and stuck it underneath there. And I'm like, "Hmm." and so we fixed it but that was a conversation with the staff after that and myself is, "How many times did we pick up dishes off this table, wipe it down-"

Marcus: And not notice.

Kristi: "... and not notice it. Not because we didn't want to notice it but we didn't think it was important and it's all of those details." I mean-

Marcus: Because if it bothered somebody enough to fold up a paper towel and put it under there-

Kristi: Absolutely and will they be back, I don't know. I hope so. I do know that I need a mirror in this one because the first month that we were open, we'd probably been open eight weeks now. The first month I was the one forgetting to bring flatware out for God's sakes. And it's like okay so how do we make this engrained that you do this and again it's the details. You just do it.

Marcus: It's coming up with a process and just remembering those small things.

Kristi: That's right and-

Marcus: That's what helps you remember the small things.

Kristi: Expecting it of yourself and walk the walk.

Marcus: Yup. How do you like to unwind?

Kristi: Oh my gosh. I have two beautiful grandchildren and that was another draw for coming up here, my son and daughter-in-law.

Marcus: Your boys are here locally now.

Kristi: Two of them are, one of them is in the navy in Norfolk, Virginia but the two granddaughters are here and I say all the time, "Why did we even bother with children, we should have skipped right over and went to ... " But they're necessary at this point.

Marcus: Yeah there's a little step there, yeah.

Kristi: A little necessary thing, yeah. But anyway, unwinding to me is them putting, we put a lot of cheese stickers that come in with our cheese and they just stick them all over me and-

Marcus: Just have a blast.

Kristi: That's just so much fun.

Marcus: Spending time with your grand babies?

Kristi: They don't want anything from me except for ... Just it's great. It's the best thing.

Marcus: Tell people where they can find you.

Kristi: We're on 650 St. Louis Street. If you're familiar with St. Louis Street it is across from All Mobile Antiques. We share a parking lot with Fowler Lighting, they've been there since March of last year I believe.

Marcus: Yeah and your hours?

Kristi: Right now they are Tuesday through Thursday 11:00 to 6:00, Friday, Saturday 11:00 to 8:00. We will be adjusting our hours on Friday and Saturday when it warms up because we do have all outdoor dining area. We thought it was going to adjust with daylight savings but it's still too cool. And you talked about revitalization, that is another issue. We're out there on an island at 8 o'clock at night, there's nothing around us that's open and so until more retail gets out there-

Marcus: Yeah it makes it a little bit more difficult because there's not a whole lot in trying 

Kristi: It's not alive and it's still downtown and there are still, you need to be cognizant of where you are, that's anywhere. We've lived in a lot of urban environments so it's no different.

Marcus: Right but the reward is great.

Kristi: Absolutely.

Marcus: We keep telling people, "You need to start coming downtown for restaurants and stuff like that, regardless of whether it's St. Louis Street or right off the Bienville Square, you just have to be aware of where you're at."

Kristi: Yeah it doesn't matter which city you are in, you would have that awareness.

Marcus: Yup absolutely.

Kristi: But we are super stoked about our location. You talked about the building.

Marcus: I was going to say yeah, touch on that just a little bit because that couldn't have been an easy thing to build that out.

Kristi: Well so when we started scoping out locations for our concept, I sent emails out to mayors and to councilmen, everywhere from D'Iberville, Mississippi to Pensacola. And everywhere in between trying to figure out where did we want this to be and [inaudible 00:37:03] here with Downtown Mobile Alliance sent me, he was one the ones that responded with some listings and he sent me this little vacant, dilapidated, abandoned old gas station.

Marcus: You could use all those because I remember what it was beforehand.

Kristi: Yeah it was terrible and he sent me this because one of my criteria for the perfect location was it had to be less than 1,000 square feet, and ability to add onto the outdoor area as a dining type area. That one we went and scoped out a lot of other locations here in Mobile and downtown. And my husband drove over from Houston and he looked in the cracked tinted windows and he called me because he's a pessimist by nature. He called me in Houston and he says, "This is it."

Marcus: That's cool.

Kristi: And that was before anything else had opened up out there so we committed to this. We knew All Mobile Antiques was going in across the street, but-

Marcus: Well there's a lot going on.

Kristi: There's a lot going on and we are happy to be a part of it.

Marcus: I think some people that were just on the podcast, Chaleur, just announced that they were going to be in innovation portals so they're going to be down the street from you. And there's a couple of other things that are happening over there but I've always just remarked because that building is quite unique with the, I don't know what you would call it but the curvature of the roof.

Kristi: It's called rain splitter design.

Marcus: Rain splitter design.

Kristi: Yeah, Pure Oil, they were the ones that built all these gas stations around the country and they did that deliberately back in the early '30s, late '30s so they would fit more into the residential neighborhoods. Because you got to think automobiles were just coming about at that time in places like where this one is, had to fit into a residential neighborhood. Now why they thought that steep roof was needed in Mobile, Alabama I'm not sure.

Marcus: Yeah I have no idea because it doesn't fit within, I mean it looks very house-like but the architecture definitely doesn't fit in down there.

Kristi: I had a customer yesterday, she brought her boyfriend up yesterday and she had been there before, he had not. And she teased him as they were walking up because he didn't know what he was walking into, what kind of place it was. She told him, "It was a little wedding chapel." and he almost ran. When she told him, "It was cheese." she did get him in the door but it is a unique design there.

Marcus: Yeah and I love that you've done a wood, a tongue in groove wood design on the interior of the roof and stuff, which really accentuates and makes it a very warm and inviting place. You've got the patio outside with the picnic tables and stuff like that. I mean it's just-

Kristi: The architect Robert Morin, he did a really good job with a lot of those details.

Marcus: Yeah very cool. I'm also going to assume that you're on Facebook?

Kristi: Yes Facebook, Instagram, I have a website. I have a blog.

Marcus: What's the website, tell me.

Kristi: TheCheeseCottageLLC.com. I had to throw the LLC on there because of the domain name.

Marcus: Yeah I was imagining The Cheese Cottage was probably taken somewhere.

Kristi: It was, somewhere in the world.

Marcus: Yeah. Well I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

Kristi: No just thanks for having me. I'm excited about what you guys are doing here and showcasing the little places like The Cottage. It's just exciting what Mobile has going on and it's good to be a part of it. I feel my roots getting deeper and deeper.

Marcus: Maybe that itch won't take.

Kristi: Yeah I know, maybe it won't.

Marcus: Well welcome to the neighborhood and I want to say I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.

Kristi: Thank you.

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