One of Los Angeles’ most famous specialty food retailers and one of the country’s first authentic cheese stores, the Cheese Store in Beverly Hills, will be under new ownership for the first time in 44 years. Norbert Wabnig is sell the store to his employee and friend of 20 years Dominick DiBartolomeo, who founded a pasta company and met his wife while working for Wabnig. Originally opened in 1967 by Colonel Sigmund Roth, Wabnig took over operations in 1978, running the generously stocked little shop nestled in the Golden Triangle which sells perhaps the widest and most variety impressive array of cheeses, truffles, caviar, charcuterie and other gourmet products. Southern California foods.
Wabnig and the shop have received numerous accolades and media attention over the decades, including a feature in the History Channel, Los Angeles Timethe Strategistand the New York Times. A big part of the charm of visiting the cheese shop was talking to Wabnig and getting advice on cheeses to take home for meals and parties. The experience of tasting rare or seasonal cheeses has always been a major reason for making the pilgrimage for Southern California food lovers.
Upon the transfer of ownership, Wabnig told Eater via email, “While cheese is the store’s flagship, the Cheese Store in Beverly Hills offers an ever-changing and expanding lineup of delicacies from around the world. Over the course of the of the past 20 years, Dominick has been a vital part of this journey, understanding it, living it, and committed to continuing the Cheese Store’s legacy while evolving it in new and exciting ways.
DiBartolomeo helped run the store during a difficult pandemic operation, with sales only available by direct phone order and pickup. Given his age, DiBartolomeo said Wabnig’s family insisted he do his best not to work during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic to stay safe. “It’s so hard to just be an order taker. Now you can come in and taste again,” says DiBartolomeo, who said the building’s owner has been generous in helping the longtime small business stay afloat in recent years with concessions and other aid. .
“We have something special. We have built an audience. Everyone knows the store, from locals to international visitors. We did it [of the pandemic] because of our loyal customers and chefs,” says DiBartolomeo, of the struggles of the past few years. Asked about the future of the store and its evolution, DiBartolomeo is fond of canned fish. “We are going deeper into canned fish, with more expansion into olive oils, caviar and the incredible wines we offer. My goal with this store is to make it more than it already is, and better than it already is.
In addition to owning the cheese store, DiBartolomeo will continue to operate his Italian specialty foods company, Domenico’s Foods, which produces and distributes fresh and dried pasta, sauces and other pantry items that are sold at local farmers markets and other retailers. “I’m a steward of this store, and now is my chance and my time to give back what it gave me,” DiBartolomeo says.
The Beverly Hills Cheese Store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.