Volume 74, Number 28 | November 17 - 22, 2004

Villager photo by Jennifer Bodrow

Some of the friendly staff at Murray’s cheese shop

Great cheese, without the squeeze, as Murray’s moves into a new space

By Jennifer Bodrow

Murray’s cheese shop, the oldest cheese store in New York and a Greenwich Village culinary institution on Bleecker St., has moved — just across the street. Although always renowned as a cheese nirvana for its more than 250 varieties, the store’s former location, with only 600 sq. ft., was always a tight squeeze. The new space, at 254 Bleecker St. at the corner of Cornelia St., which opened on Wednesday, has 1,200 sq. ft., or twice as much retail space, plus additional space for cheese aging, a classroom and an expanded wholesale facility.

Murray’s cheese shop was founded in 1940 by Murray Greenberg on Cornelia St. In 1991, Rob Kaufelt, the current owner, bought the shop from Louis Tudda and moved it across to 257 Bleecker St. With the store heading into its 65th year, it was time for change, Kaufelt felt. Hence the move to the other side of Bleecker St.

“It’s possible to stay in business, but it is hard, especially in a time where more and more big stores are coming in,” Kaufelt said. The larger space allows Kaufelt to sell even more cheese, salads, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, paninis, yogurt, coffee cake, scones and muffins. The store offers an enormous selection of domestic and imported artisan and farmstead cheeses.

Not lost among all the cheese, is the importance of customer service, something on which Murray’s prides itself.

“We are an individual store and we know all our customers,” said the owner.

They also know a lot about cheese, of course, as well as wine and food-related topics, and are willing to share this knowledge with anybody who is interested. In fact, there is a cheese education center on the store’s mezzanine level where seasonal classes on cheese and more will take place. Here shoppers will be able to learn about preparing cheese from Murray’s staff, cheese makers, authors, chefs, affineurs (cheese agers) and international cheese experts.

Also new are the climate-controlled cheese caves in the basement and on the first floor, which provide the right conditions to “treat cheese the way it likes to be treated,” according to Kaufelt. Outside the store’s front door is a see-through sidewalk offering a view of cheese in the underground cheese caves.

The store offers wholesale and mail-order sales, as well as retail.

Murray’s cheese shop, 254 Bleecker St., at Cornelia St., 212-243-3289; www.murrayscheese.com.

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