A new cheese shop featuring handmade, artisan selections from small and local cheesemakers opens this fall at Armour Yards in northeast Atlanta.
Capella Cheese moves into a 3,500-square-foot space on Ottley Drive in the Armour neighborhood, joining SweetWater Brewing Company, East Pole Coffee Co. and a yet-named restaurant from Victory Brands, the restaurant group behind Victory Sandwich Bar and Lloyd’s.
Co-owned by longtime cheese expert Raymond Hook, former Star Provisions manager and cheese monger, and Clay Jackson, who met Hook as a Star Provisions customer, Capella Cheese will carry around 250 artisanal cheeses, all curated by Hook. He plans to source cheeses for the shop from small-batch producers who are connected to their terroir, focused on using sustainable dairy, and who follow a more traditional, rather than conventional, method of cheesemaking. Selections will range from family-produced U.S. cheeses to Swiss-style options that Hook says aren’t offered at any other shop in Atlanta.
“We really are looking for cheeses that are much more handmade — they’re made by families and from people who have a lot of passion,” Hook says. “So, we’re getting cheeses from people who, it’s really art, it’s a craft, what they’re doing.”
Named for a star sometimes referred to as the Goat Star, Capella Cheese will feature a 12-foot cheese case and three storage rooms people can peer into, with each room queued to the ideal air conditions for properly storing different types of cheeses. The shop will make its own fresh mozzarella daily, too, and sell other provisions, such as cured meats, wine, honey, jams, olive oils, vinegar, breads, and even fresh flowers.
There will be an e-commerce arm of Capella Cheese. Cheese will be cut and packed under refrigeration using modified atmosphere packaging equipment, which flushes the cheese with nitrogen gas to slow degradation caused by oxygen, extending its shelf life for shipping and retail display.
The idea for the business formed from a combination of a “little competition and self-interest of wanting a world-class [cheese] shop,” Jackson says of the impetus behind Capella Cheese.
“I love good cheese. I have had a passion for the stuff since I was a kid, going with my mother to the Pharr Road cheese store,” he says. “I have been surprised for a while that a city the size of Atlanta did not have a dedicated cheese shop. As choices in the area diminished, I became frustrated I could not find interesting cheeses.”
To bring these unique cheese offerings to Atlanta, Hook is using the knowledge and connections he’s built within the industry over the past 30 years.
Cheese first entered Hook’s life in 1984 when his family bought a restaurant with a cheese counter in Oklahoma. Later, when he studied hotel and restaurant management at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Hook worked in restaurants that continued to expose him to different types of cheeses. But, his interest truly piqued when he was a salesman for a food supplier specializing in cured meats and cheeses in San Francisco.
In the late 1990s, Hook wound up at Star Provisions, running the cheese counter there for a couple of years before eventually returning to San Francisco. He continued to move around, diving into different facets of the cheese industry, from importing and exporting products to starting an in-store product demonstration company and consulting for others who opened their own cheese shops.
When Jackson approached Hook in 2020 about opening a cheese shop in Atlanta, he wanted him to be more than just a consultant.
The timing was right, and the partners found an ideal location between Buckhead and Midtown. Hook immediately moved back to Atlanta to begin the work of opening Capella Cheese. The pair believe their future shop together will appeal to an international and diverse city like Atlanta.
“You could ask any serious cheesemonger, one of the best kinds of gratification we get is when we give a customer their next favorite piece of cheese,” Hook says. “I get a lot out of that. I’m looking forward to just being a cheese counter guy.”
And at the cheese counter is where he hopes to share his expertise, as education will be one of the main tenants of the shop. In fact, Hook feels education is key to ushering in the next wave of interest in cheese — one that expands the array of people who appreciate higher quality cheeses. Hook intends to help customers gain that knowledge in a few ways. Cheeses will be cut to order, allowing people to sample various styles before purchasing, while providing details on the cheesemakers. He plans to make recommendations based on how customers intend to use the cheeses, whether for a cheeseboard or as an ingredient in a dish they’re making at home.
Once the shop opens in October, Hook hopes to begin holding formal cheese tasting events to help familiarize people with traditional cheesemaking techniques and the variety of cheeses carried at Capella Cheese.
“Our goal is to create a shop where cheesemakers would be happy that they’re sold at [and] that customers can come in and taste cheese and learn about it, and hear a story or two,” says Hook.
255 Ottley Drive, Suite 110, Atlanta.