Suppose you’re throwing a small party. Friends will come over, and they’ll be hungry. You want to present a charcuterie board with a sophisticated range of cheeses. But you don’t know much about cheese, and you need to consult an expert. So – for the past 15 years – you’ve been able to visit Milk & Honey, the specialty cheese shop in Tiverton Four Corners.
Last February, Milk & Honey had to seek a new storefront. The owner, Sherry Callaghan, would have preferred to stay in the original location, but she saw the move as an opportunity to expand.
“We looked for a place that we hoped would have more year-round business,” says Sherry. “It’s been somewhat of a challenge. Moving a business that’s been in one location for so many years is always difficult. But it’s not impossible.”
Since February, Milk & Honey has settled into a new venue in Portsmouth, where Sherry grew up. She describes the original Milk & Honey as a “garage-meets-barn”; it stood separately from any other commercial structure. In contrast, their new home is intimately connected to other businesses, lending a more neighborly environment. The building is centuries old; Sherry has heard that the Milk & Honey sink, with its antique hand pump, is the oldest in Portsmouth.
“It’s a little bit smaller,” says Sherry. “But it’s still very rustic in feeling.”
Sherry isn’t the original Milk & Honey owner, but she has become an impressive local entrepreneur. For 16 years, she lived in New York City, where she owned an unrelated business. In 2007, Sherry and her husband purchased Bellevue Wine and Spirits in Newport, just weeks before she gave birth to their daughter. They purchased Milk & Honey in 2014, then Aquidneck Meats a couple of years later.
Milk & Honey has many regional ties, selling local honey, yogurt, and Narragansett Creamery products. The shelves are stocked with Effie’s biscuits, made in Massachusetts. Many of the cheeses are produced in New England, but goods are sourced from all over the map. The store coordinates regularly with Bellevue, pairing hard-to-find cheeses with equally fine wines.
Not everyone is versed in the craft of cheesemaking, of course, nor do all visitors know what they like. Some swear off gouda, not knowing how various gouda can be. Others love Swiss, unaware that Swiss can be made without holes. One of the few consistencies is an aversion to chevre; if people claim not to like goat cheese, says Sherry, they can taste the slightest hint.
“My big question is always, ‘What don’t you like?’” says Nina Pease, who has managed Milk & Honey for years. “Because usually that’s the best way to navigate it. If you ask them what they like, they’ll say, ‘I like everything.’”
1016 East Main Road, Portsmouth • 401-624-1974