I’ve been waiting until Andy Meddick finished his “big kids’” grilled cheese bar before posting an article, and goodness knows it took him long enough. But the wait was worth it, and Rehoboth's very first fromagerie, Morgan & Gower Cheesemongers, is now complete, up and running. Turophiles of central Sussex can now rejoice, as the former Good For You Foods grocer’s black-and-white striped gourmet specialty shop on the ocean block of Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach is the place to go for quality artisanal cheeses (mostly domestic, as the Welshman is proud of saying). In fact, before Andy purchases a cheese from overseas, he does substantial research to ensure that comparable or identical cheeses are not available locally, regionally or nationally.
This ain’t yo’ momma’s Velveeta, kids. Meddick hopes to raise Rehoboth’s curd consciousness with a collection that includes everything from Roquefort Gabriel Coulet La Petit Cave weighing in at about $40 per pound to the deliciously aged yet slightly more wallet-friendly Old Quebec Cheddar at $11 a pound. Our impression of grocery store cheese prices can be distorted, because rarely do they sell an entire pound at one time (that’s a lot of cheese!). But we’ll happily part with $5.25 for a quarter-pound wedge of something we like. Well, that comes to $21 a pound. Do the math.
Knowledgeable mongers and mongerettes clad in chefs’ coats guide you through the process of choosing your favorite, hand-cutting it so it’s fresh and not shriveled from sitting in a deli case. Some of the more popular items are pre-cut into small grab-n-go portions. Meddick explains, “I’m a block from the beach, and I’m selling lots of cheeses people have never tasted before. So I always have a few varieties ready-to-go that prove to be most popular. You won’t find mass-produced product in my store. Why would people fight the downtown parking to buy something they could get in the supermarket?”
Andy was born in Wales, just outside the capital city of Cardiff. His father was a professional glassblower, shaping scientific glassware by day for the University of Wales, and crafting decorative pieces in the evening. Andy’s appreciation for the finer things started with dad turning molten silica into gleaming works of art. His knack for careful buying came from mom. She was, in his words, “always on a diet.” She lost over a hundred pounds after she married Andy’s dad, and shopping trips involved a watchful balance of taste, calories, fat and fiber. “She was a great cook,” says Meddick. “I grew up with a focus on quality and careful meal planning.”
Seven years ago when he emigrated to Rehoboth Beach from Ellicott City, Md., he missed his established food markets. “Like a crazy person I opened a 5000 square foot store. I’d never done that in my life!” He quickly learned that the average sand dweller or vacationer wasn’t going to trek up to Rt. 9 just because his tomatoes came from a local farm. He downscaled, but could never completely shake what he calls “that expensive health food store” image.
Andy also dishes up a menu of hot and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. and plans on launching an e-commerce market to sell his cheesy treats online, along with the more popular health-centered items people came to appreciate at Good For You Foods. He’ll also resume his Cheese 101 classes, presenting such diverse topics as the volume of product vs. varieties of milk, aging techniques and even the preparation of holiday platters.
Meddick loves North American cheeses. In fact, seventy-five percent of his inventory consists of high-quality domestic varieties, and the rest is made up of European selections that cannot be properly duplicated in the United States. The U.S. contains 800 small farms producing small-batch cheeses comparable to their European counterparts, and though the name of his store smacks of South Wales (more about that later), he is all about American-made craft cheeses. “I’m so proud to be an American citizen,” he smiles, “and I’m proud of American products. That’s what Morgan & Gower Cheesemongers is all about.”
One of Andy’s specialties is cheese platters for parties and catering events. And a special value-added is an attractive little map of what cheeses are where on the plate. A little bit of information, including the state/country of origin, accompanies each description.
People still come into the store and demand to meet either Morgan or Gower. Andy smiles as he explains that the name had to sound Welsh, like his beloved Marks & Spencer, or Fortnum & Mason shops in Knightsbridge. He thought of his childhood vacation spot, the Gower peninsula in Glamorgan County in South Wales. Morgan translates to “born of the sea.” Well, his store is on the ocean block of Baltimore Avenue, after all, so Morgan & Gower Cheesemongers – with neither Morgan nor Gower -- became a reality in late 2012.
In true Baltimore Avenue fashion, ornate chandeliers decorate the front windows and a glittering mirror ball signals specials and sales. “It has to be fun,” says Meddick. “I’m not an elitist by any means. I want the shop to be comfortable, a little bit elegant, but definitely not cheesy.” Yes, he actually said that.
As the business continues to build, Andy spends time uncovering relatively local sources for high-quality inventory, working out from Delaware to eventually include the entire nation. From anybody else, that might sound a little cheesy, but from Andy Meddick, it’s 100 percent genuine.
Morgan & Gower Cheesemongers is located on the ocean block at 20 Baltimore Avenue in the Celebration Mall (the old Epworth U.M. Church).
You can call to check their hours (especially off-season!) at 302-727-5566. Andy loves Facebook, so visit him and the store here. Price range: All over the place.