Art of the Table

Sharing Style & Good Taste

Sometimes an opportunity is too good to pass up. Or maybe it is because people won't let you say no, or both. Ask Amy Ruis, who expanded her gourmet retail business by opening a second location – a cheese, charcuterie and wine store and bar.

For her most recent venture, Ruis teamed up with Kate Leeder to open a hybrid retail/bar concept inside Grand Rapid's Downtown Market. Aptly named Aperitivo, Italian for pre-dinner snack, it opened in September 2013 alongside 20 other vendors in the 138,000-square-foot market. "I never meant to open anything there," says Ruis, who was on the market's planning board. "I put my thinking cap on – and came up with a nice array of people who would be great vendors.

Ruis and Leeder wanted to expand Art of the Table's selection of cheese even more, but space in the gourmet store, known for its selection of specialty foods, tabletop and beer and wine, was already tight. So, opening a separate retail business inside the Downtown Market was the best option.

 
l love how Europeans can have a quick glass of wine or piece of cheese and go on their way or linger. I love that idea and thought we could do that very well.
— Kate Leeder
 

An Appetite for Cheese

Kate Leeder, former cheesemonger at Art of the Table and cheese buyer at Whole Foods Market, put her experience to work, quadrupling the cheeses offered and adding cheeses that were precut on site. "We tried to make it a cheese destination," she adds.

Ruis and Leeder decided to partner and after more than a year of planning, opened Aperitivo.

Aperitivo cuts cheese and charcuterie to order and also sells wine, local beer – by the glass and by the bottle – cheese accompaniments, specialty foods and cheese- and wine–related housewares. The concept includes a bar and a dining area, where sandwiches, small plates and drinks can be enjoyed.

The Mix

The store's mix blends beer and wine, speciality foods, pre-cut cheeses, premium ice cream, cutlery, textiles, stemware and serveware.

Cookbooks remain a thriving category at Art of the Table. "People buy books like crazy," says Ruis. "People like the idea of food, sitting down wit ha book and studying it."

Cheers

A couple nights a week, Art of the Table is hosting beer and wine tastings. Every day, Art of the Table is sampling speciality foods. During the day it may be a salsa-and-chip combo or a local caramel.

Source: Wolfe, Anna. "Art of the Table: Sharing Style & Good Taste." Gourmet Retailer. April/May 2015

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