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South Bay’s sole cheese store is ‘Curd nerd’s’ passion project

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Self-described ‘curd nerd’ Solange Comer of Cultured Slice. Photo by Phoebe Lai

by Phoebe Lai

Solange Comer’s Cultured Slice is the only cheese shop in the South Bay. Solange and her wife opened the European-style shop on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach almost two years ago.

Cultured Slice offers cheeses to accommodate all food preferences, including vegan and gluten-free. The also offer sandwiches and catering.

Comer and inventory manager Barbara Li source cheeses from around the globe. But Li 

Contends that the origin does not matter so much as taste, which is up for interpretation. When responding to customers’ requests, Li narrows down the choices with categories and tasting the cheese.

“It doesn’t matter what country a cheese comes from as long as I enjoy it. Some of my favorite cheese, like Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm and Vermont Creamery, are from the United States. Cypress Grove Creamery is right here in California,” Li said.

But Li and Comer still look to parts of the world for products famous for their cheese, such as Parmigiano Reggiano in Italy and Triple Creme Brie in France.

The shop also specializes in charcuterie and sells a vast range of non-dairy products, such as jams, chocolates, crackers, and olives, to pair with the main act. The shelves are lined with locally-sourced jams and jars of flavored honey. Glass bottles of sparkling lemonade and water decorate their refrigerated display, which boasts brands not typically found in the cheese aisle of a supermarket.

Comer was born in South America, but raised in the South Bay. Her lifelong dream she said has been to bring a “mom and pop shop feel back to the South Bay.”

“Growing up in the South Bay made me realize what a special community this is. Everybody is very tight-knit, very connected. Small, local business really important to people,” she said.

“I love their customer service and how personable they are. Having a small business adds character to our small town community,” said regular store patron Gema Miller, who returns to the shop for their cheese boards and sandwiches.

Solange’s passion for cheese dates back to her earliest years. She “was not a normal child, sneaking cornichon and pickled olives” out of her mom’s fridge by the age of two.

Comer keeps her passion for cheese alive by sharing new flavor combinations with similarly enthusiastic customers. But the effort has not been without its challenges.

“When those bigger shops moved in, like Lazy Acres and all those, it was definitely a concern for me,” Comer said.

“Their ability to sustain themselves is different because they have the corporate structure to fall back on should times get tough,” added Li.

But she’s still convinced small businesses like Cultured Slice offer a valuable and irreplaceable sense of personalization typically unavailable at larger businesses.

“The experience we give to our customers is not the same. Like I said, that’s what sets us apart: that attention to detail, that attention to the customer. I’m going to know what you like and I’m going to ask about your kids. I’m really going to be focused on you as a customer and make sure that we can deliver,” Comer said.

Comer said she’s pleased with her shop’s development.

“It’s incredible to look back at the first year and then look back at the numbers the second year. There is so much growth it’s hard to keep up.”

Comer’s five-year plan includes hot sandwiches and tapas in the near future.

She also plans to expand her expertise by traveling to Europe to study cheesemaking.

“To have an idea, to see it come to fruition, and to have all the support that I’ve had from family and friends, and community, I’m living the dream. It’s a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but I love it,” said the self-described curd nerd.

Cultured Slice is located at 229 Pacific Coast Hwy. For more information visit CulturedSlice.com.

 

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