Share: Cheesebar is a reflection of its owner, Emily Frank. Fused with a sense of energetic calm, she takes whatever comes her way in stride. After all, that’s what she says an entrepreneur does: figures it out.
After six years of owning C’est Cheese gourmet grilled cheese food truck, a Queen City staple, the transition to a cheese-focused brick-and-mortar felt natural.
“The truck is going really well and the city has been kind and embraced us, but I started a couple of years ago thinking ‘OK, what’s next?’ ” Frank says. “I don’t want to be in a food truck for the rest of my life.”
A step up from the nostalgic ooze of grilled cheese, Frank looked toward a more refined presentation when creating Share’s concept — the cheese plate, minus the pretension.
“I think cheese can be a lot like wine, right? It’s intimidating,” she says. “Some people know they like Brie cheese but don’t know what animal produces the milk to make the Brie cheese, or what else is like a Brie cheese. That’s OK. As long as you’re willing to try it and have a little fun, you’re my kind of people.”
When finding a home for her cheese aspirations, Frank looked to her own neighborhood, Pleasant Ridge. Once lined with vacant shops, the main drag is now home to a host of cool, local endeavors, including Nine Giant Brewing, whose opening last year made the area perfect from a business standpoint, according to Frank. Share: Cheesebar opened in July.
“I love everything about this community. I’m fairly involved with a lot of things going on — I can walk into the coffee shop and know half-a-dozen people there,” she says. “It’s a very welcoming, supportive and diverse community. All these new businesses coming in at the same time is just icing on the cake.”
Inside, the space is both a reflection of Frank and the connections she has created. Light pours in through windows that line the front and right side of the cozy building. The clean walls are hung with minimalistic canvases made by a graphic designer pal, and a large spray-painted pink chandelier a friend found on Craigslist dangles from the ceiling.
A glass cabinet near the front is filled with a streamlined selection of artisan cheeses from near and far. One is soaked in wine and topped with a grape leaf, another — called TeaHive, from Utah — is rubbed with black tea and bergamot. One is coined the “Pleasant Ridge Reserve,” though the nutty delicacy comes from Wisconsin.
Diners can choose from an array of rotating curated cheese plates ($15-$25) with themes like the Ooh La La European board or the Tapas Con Queso Spanish board, or opt to add charcuterie from the shop’s selection of meats, which range from prosciutto to Ohio’s North Country salami and chorizo. Accoutrement like marcona almonds, olives and preserves come on the side.
Pair your board with wine — right now, Share offers six whites and six reds — or a beer from a local brewery. Frank says she owes breweries after years of parking her food truck outside their businesses. In the future, Frank says they plan to host a monthly class where they bring in a different local brewery and teach attendees about the process of making both cheese and beer.
Most customers place trust in Frank to lead them through the path of righteous cheese tasting. She says she and her employees ask every customer if they have any taste or texture aversions, and the majority of the plates sold are “chef’s choice,” where staffers pick the cheese samples for you.
“It’s really cool. People are like ‘Have at it. We’re here to try new things,’ ” Frank says. “They’ll say, ‘The stinkier, the better.’ To me, that’s really fun.”
But it hasn’t always been fun or easy. A few months after initially signing a lease on the space, Frank was crossing the street with her father when she was struck by a Metro bus in Hyde Park, crushing her foot; her father died on the scene. The months that followed the incident — on Jan. 27, 2016 — put everything on hold.
Frank says she was immobile, bedridden and couldn’t walk or drive for half of 2016. Despite this, she never doubted that Share: Cheesebar would happen — just that it would be delayed.
“It’s hard. It’s hard to sit down. I’ll sit at the cash register on a stool as much as I can, but when someone comes in I stand up and want to greet them and interact with them,” Frank says. “At night, I’m a little better and I’ll sit in my wheelchair in the storage closet and work from there.”
It’s just her reality, she says, crediting her team of seven for keeping her grounded. They remind her to relax when she’s overexerting herself.
During the month of October, Frank says she’ll face another foot surgery after which she won’t be able to bear weight on it for six weeks. Though she’ll have to be out of the shop more than she’d like — “I’m just neurotic and type A; it’s my baby,” Frank says — she has full faith in her staff to carry out her passion.
“I have an amazing group of people here,” she says, adding that in some ways it’s almost frightening how well her team syncs up and gets along. Some she knew prior to Share and others she didn’t. Regardless, the group is planning to make their chemistry tangible via matching tattoos of a cheese knife.
“We have a good time around here. I’m surrounded by deliciousness,” Frank says. “From a purely selfish standpoint, I get to see my neighbors, my friends. It’s not a bad gig. If you have to work for a living, it’s not a bad gig.”
As she wraps up a conversation, a neighbor walks in and says hi, welcoming her to Pleasant Ridge as a business, and she starts to stand from her stool behind the cash register.
SHARE: CHEESEBAR is located at 6105 Ridge Ave., Pleasant Ridge. More info: sharecheesebar.com.