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When “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal met Lydia Clarke in December 2020, her cheese shop was facing both a slowdown in business because of the pandemic and the Donald Trump administration’s 25% tariff on dairy products imported from Europe. At her stall at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, Clarke told Ryssdal she wasn’t sure she’d be able to make payroll past the week.
Now, 2½ years later, Ryssdal’s visited Clarke again, this time at a new location. After nine years at Grand Central, DTLA Cheese moved into a larger space just a block away. Clarke also owns Kippered, a tinned fish and Champagne bar next door.
“I’ve lived on this block for 10 years,” Clarke said. “It’s my home.”
At the new location, DTLA Cheese has expanded its food menu and the walls are lined with fresh produce and pantry goods. Unlike the former location, the current incarnation offers seating, and the staff has grown by about 10 people.
“I know we can do it. We have the right team, and it feels like the right time,” Clarke said. “There’s so much excitement. I hope people come in here. I hope people think, ‘Shop small.'”
In addition to Kippered and DTLA, Clarke and her sister own Cheese Cave in Claremont, California. As her business ownership expands, Clarke said, she still operates from the perspective of a cheesemonger.
“A cheesemonger, it’s about knowing the history,” Clarke said. “So it’s not just a piece of cheese … even though it’s just a piece of cheese.”
Clarke and her sister brought this approach to creating the menu for Kippered.
“When we were writing the wine list, everybody thought, ‘Oh, you should do this or this,'” Clarke said. “I was like, ‘You know what? We’re gonna celebrate that we’re still here. We’re gonna serve 10 bubbles by the glass and just have a wild time.”
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