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Meet Stephanie: The Heart and Soul Behind Central Wedge

Updated: May 23

Guten Tag and warm welcome!

Central Wedge Cheese Shop is a specialty food shop that primarily offers artisan, farmstead and specialty cheeses from Pennsylvania makers. This ensures that every wedge and wheel behind our counter delivers authentic Pennsylvania terroir (taste of place). Our doors opened in April 2023, but the journey started long before that through a series of life experiences. Read on to meet the owner Stephanie and learn what inspired Central Wedge Cheese Shop.

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

My name is Stephanie, chief cheese guide at Central Wedge. Being able to choose your own title is one of the coolest things about owning your own business! I’m the heart and soul behind Central Wedge and the main tour guide for the 95+ cheeses that we offer. When you visit us, you will taste the full flavor of Pennsylvania cheese and leave the shop feeling more connected to local farmers.

From the Very Beginning

I grew up in a bakery. My mom founded Carlisle’s long-standing Pennsylvania Dutch bakery, Beeman’s Baked Goods about the time that I was born. I was tasked with bagging bread and washing dishes by the age of six. My family talks all the time about how slowly I worked but they could always count on me to still be working to finish the job long after everyone else.

My siblings and I were paid by the hour but we each had our assigned tasks to complete. I learned early on that nobody enjoys washing dishes. One day, my sister offered to pay me $3 dollars (this was the early 90’s) to finish her task; washing the angelfood cake pans, the worst of all bakery dishes. Obviously, I said yes. It was a lucrative agreement for me – collecting my hourly wage and the bonus of extra cash money to wash a few pans. This continued for two weeks before my mother and sister realized what was happening and the sweet deal ended. I still think it was a fair arrangement but ApPArEntLY that’s not how family business works!

When I was about 8 years old, my oldest sister gifted me with two white Saanen-Nubian breeding does and I became “a crazy goat girl”. I was an early adopter of goat yoga. In the spring, I would be in the goat pen acting as a jungle gym for all the baby goats. It served the purpose of taming the kids so I could work with them. In hindsight, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my childhood. Goats were my main farm project but I also worked with cows.

We lived near my grandparents and my grandfather would often ask for help from my siblings and I for small tasks, like moving the cows from one pen to another. His training method was a simple statement, “You stand here and only let the cows through that I tell you to.” I think it’s perfectly logical for a child to be terrified of a large animal that weighs ten times their body weight, but I can still hear him yelling, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them!” For the record, it’s not always true and I’ve been chased by cows a couple of times.

2006 Pennsylvania FFA Convention

When I was 10 years old, I joined the 4-H and then later, the FFA. My formal education in agriculture had begun! As a 4-H and FFA member, I raised sheep, goat, hogs, steers, and dairy cows. I was mostly doing it for fun, but my experiences helped me understand farm practices and the impact on the food we eat. I took every class I could in agriculture and business in high school and then in college. After graduating from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, I was employed in the dairy industry working with farmer-directed programs. This time in my life is when I tasted the life changing Noblette, a brie style cheese made in Pennsylvania.

Why a Cheese Shop?

I was recovering from Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2017 and questioning the next step in my life. It’s not an uncommon experience - facing a life-threatening medical issue that results in a full-blown life crisis. I knew a few things with certainty; I wanted to start a small business, I wanted to work with food, and it needed to be something that connected me to farmers.

Then someone suggested a cheese shop and all I could think about was my first time tasting Noblette. I would be able to introduce that buttery, salty, and mushroomy goodness to other people! Central Wedge is more than a business—it's my passion and my love letter to my hometown. Every experience I’ve had shows up in some way. Central Wedge is a local food shop with an international influence. I pour my heart and soul into creating a place for cheese lovers and I live to share that passion with my community!

Rungis International Wholesale Market in Paris, France, 2010

International Influence

Sign outside of Galway cheese shop

If cheese is my bread and butter, traveling is my jam: I’ve been to Ireland and Mexico several times, as well as Chile, France, Norway, and Canada.

In the United States, cheese shops aren’t very common in smaller towns, like Carlisle. I wasn’t even aware they could be a thing until I was on a study abroad trip in Paris (spring 2010). Of course it would be an experience in France!

We shopped for cheese during one of the classes. Each student selected a unique cheese then we sampled them while the instructor guided us through a tasting. At the time, the flavors were all too strong for my American Cheese palate.

Later, I stumbled across a cheese shop in an alley in Galway, Ireland (Summer 2013). I vividly remember the experience which became the basis for the Central Wedge brand.

Cutting the curd during a cheese making class in Northern Ireland (2022)

The thing I enjoy most about traveling (besides eating new foods) is being dropped into a world with unknown cultural norms and learning to adapt to those hidden expectations. I fall in love a little bit with every place I visit. If you want to know about a culture and it’s people, look at what and how they eat! When I return home, I mourn the loss of being in the other place. To cope, I make something about my experience there a part of my daily life. It’s usually food related, which has a direct impact on how I manage Central Wedge and what I sell.

Your Guide for Pennsylvania Cheese

My first time shopping solo in a cheese shop was intimidating. While cheesemongers are skilled and knowledgeable professionals, I felt overwhelmed and unprepared. That day, I avoided ordering at the cheese counter. Instead, I purchased only pre-wrapped cheeses and probably missed out on sampling some awesome local cheeses! That's more a reflection on my social anxiety than on the cheesemonger's ability but it influences how we greet customers at Central Wedge. I want each customer to have an empowering experience. My employees and I strive to greet each customer so they feel welcome and know that we are available to help!

I love meeting people who are as crazy about cheese (and food in general) as I am. A big part of that joy comes from sharing cheesemaker stories and connecting my customers to the people behind the cheese. To make this possible, I strive to cultivate a relationship with each cheesemaker from which I source.

My overarching strategy is to offer the best cheeses that each cheesemaker produces. Over the past decade, I have developed an appreciation for the rich, flavorful cheeses produced in Pennsylvania. When I’m forming a relationship with a maker, I sample a wide variety of their cheeses. This helps me learn what they do best and where it will fit into the already extensive selection at Central Wedge. This process makes evaluating the quality and flavor a valuable skill set. Choosing quality cheese matters to both me and the cheesemakers and I take pride in selecting and caring for their carefully created products.

The biggest challenge that artisan and farmstead cheesemakers have is getting their product to market. Often, they are the farmer, the cheesemaker, the affineur, and the marketer too. Pennsylvania farmers have everything they need to be leading producers of quality foods; good soil, humid climate with defined seasons, a growing season with an appropriate length, plentiful fresh water sources, industry infrastructure and most importantly, people. It’s still a lot of risk and responsibility in a world where people are bombarded with marketing messages. It just makes sense for me to use my skill set, passion, education, and experience to build a place that makes available a wide variety of local cheese and specialty foods.

The dual value of this vision is that it strengthens our food system for customers by making local foods more accessible to our community. Currently, the project consuming most of my time is developing a platform for online ordering so that a wide selection of Pennsylvania cheese can be shipped right to your door!

Join Me on this Adventure!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and learn about Central Wedge. I wish that I had a simple answer when customers ask, “How did you end up starting a cheese shop?” Every adventure and experience in my life led me here. As you can see, the answer is not simple but if you every hear me say, “I like cows a lot,” please know that is also true.

I have many plans to grow the business and this blog is just one part of that. Stay tuned for more cheesy stories, favorite recipes, class and event announcements, cheese and food science information and much, much more.

Staying in touch is important. If you have any questions, feel free to email or message me on social media. If you would like to receive the newsletter, please subscribe here.

If you enjoyed hearing about my journey to open Central Wedge, please leave a comment telling me about your favorite cheese.

Let’s make every bite count!

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