What do cheese and art have in common? Both excite the pallet and have rich stories, according to The Fox and the Crow owner Tina Mooney, a cheesemonger and art history major.
The Fox and the Crow brings artisan cheeses and meats to mid-town Fort Collins. They understand that the world of artisan cheese can be intimidating and have crafted their shop to welcome people who may stumble in serendipitously. Little signs like: “We cut the cheese,” and “Please refrain from tapping on the glass. It scares the meats,” let customers know that while they take cheese seriously, it’s fun too. They regularly host wine and beer pairing classes, to bring knowledge, fun and taste together.
When asked about her passion, Tina said, “Cheeses really speak to me because they all have stories, especially artisan products.” If you point to any of the products in their cases (without tapping on the glass, of course), staff will give you a breakdown of where it came from, how it was made and how it will taste, before offering you a sample. “I give all of my new employees a cheese textbook. They do everything from cooking to serving to retailing, so I want them to be personable, knowledgeable and sincerely love cheese.”
As a first time entrepreneur, Tina began developing her business idea at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “I looked online for business classes, and the local chamber referred me to the SBDC. I kept getting the last open spot in all the trainings I sought, so the timing lined up perfectly. It must have been fate!” Through the SBDC, she worked with several consultants, took business courses, and learned how to listen to customers. SBDC consultants helped her with projecting financials, marketing, connections for financing, and setting up a commercial kitchen. She went to San Francisco for cheese school, to learn how cheeses are made, as well as how to properly cut and package cheese. Tina made it from idea to open in eleven months, officially opening in November 2014.
“The biggest surprise has been catering. At first, we didn’t really know how to do it. Now we do events and platters, that I like to bring an artistic touch to,” says Tina. The shop also has a devoted fan base of customers ranging from age 18 to 95, another surprise that has allowed the business to establish lasting relationships. “Last year for Easter, I made these seven pound monster meat pies. They pre-sold, so I didn’t even save one for my family. One of our customers heard, and they made us one and brought it to the shop. That’s the kind customers we have. It’s really like that!”
Looking to the future, they are excited to be, “Drowning in cheese money.” This will allow Tina to provide her employees long term benefits. As much as Tina loves cheese, she looks forward to the day when she can step back and let the cheese wheels turn on their own.