by Marie Doyon
These days, Main Street Rosendale is the picture of pastel perfection—colorful, well kempt storefronts beckon with the iconic trestle silhouetted in the background.
When Yuval and Lisa Sterer bought the building where the Big Cheese now lives (about 12 years ago), Rosendale was very different. Lisa recalls, “This building became available, and this is when 99 percent of the shops on Main Street were closed. They were vacant and it was a very un-bustling town. And we decided to purchase this property…We were next to this falling down theater. Rosendale has jumped leaps and bounds in the last couple years; I hardly recognize it.”
Yuval had purchased Mr. Schneller’s farmers market cheese business. He took over the markets and also began selling wheels of cheese to local restaurants out of the back of his truck. At the time, Lisa was selling second hand clothes at the High Falls flea market, garnering quite the fan base.
“Being a little unsure about the likelihood of this place, we rented the front space out and actually opened a little shop in the back where the Creative Co-op is now. And when we saw that we were being received well we had the courage to move up here.”
Lisa remembers, “It was getting cold, and I was getting tired of schlepping all the clothes in and out and in and out for the flea market. I had a good following—people liked the things that I was selling, so we just took a chance.” At first Yuval resisted bringing “these stinky clothes” into the cheese shop, but quickly recognized the value and appeal it added.
This was how they built their varied business. Lisa says, “In this day and age, you’ve gotta be eclectic. We have a little bit going on of a lot of different things. We’re selling clothes and food products, we’re making great, healthy food, and I think our prices are pretty good…And the fact that we’re open 7 days a week with friendly staff, makes us reliable. We really like it and I think that people feel it.” She adds with a chuckle, “Only an eclectic place can work in Rosendale because the population is so diverse.”
With the influx of tourists, which she attributes to the 1850 House and the rail trail, Lisa hopes for the cheese shop to continue to evolve with the times. “People are looking for the same quality that they are accustomed to getting in more urban areas. So I’d like to keep up.”
If you have ever lived or worked in Rosendale you know that the Big Cheese is a big social hub—a place where you can patter away on your laptop, meet friends for a meal, hold a casual lunch, or catch a bite before the evening showing at the Rosendale Theatre. This is Lisa’s favorite part of the business. “I enjoy providing a living room, a kind of meeting place for people, where the community congregates to exchange information. And I like to be able to give people jobs—I feel very happy about that, and to be able to boost the economy in this area. We depend a lot on the people who work with us for good attitude and for making people feel comfortable here.”
Earlier this year Lisa and Yuval opened Garden House, just a few doors down from the cheese shop. You’ll know it by its big, beautiful garden space and epic outdoor pizza oven. The opening of the restaurant is the culmination of a four-year total renovation of the building and yard. Trained at the Dubai Hilton, the chef Maheda cooks up a delicious offering of Middle Eastern food.
About the Garden House, Lisa says happily, “This summer was really busy. Some days it was busier than we ever could have imagined. We had music in the yard on Friday nights. We’re looking forward to more of that.”
If you haven’t been yet, go check it out before they close for January and February (so Maheda can visit her family in Jordan), and be sure to try the baklava.
The Big Cheese
404 Main St, Rosendale, NY 12472