Austin couple celebrate love of cheese and each other

John and Kendall Antonelli opened Antonelli's Cheese Shop in February 2010 to do more than just sell cheese. John said they wanted to share their passion with everyone in Austin after the idea first began to form about five years ago.

"We were on our honeymoon, and we were sitting on this perfect beach having a great drink. We had just had this perfect wedding, and I have a perfect wife, and it was in that moment I realized I didn't have a perfect job," said John Antonelli, who worked as a Certified Public Accountant. "I wasn't looking forward to coming back to work."

They agreed to spend two years discovering their passion, and they found the answer was cheese. John said it was the complexity of cheese—the science, art, culture and history he found in it—that nurtured his passion and drew his interest to the craft.

"We had always wanted to open a business together," John said. "We put our strengths and weaknesses together, and our strengths are eating, talking, being together and traveling. So we built a business model around that."

Antonelli's offers seven styles of artisanal cheese that are cut to order, including fresh, soft-ripened, washed rind, semi-soft, firm, hard and bleu with cheese from local, domestic and international producers. The selection rotates regularly, so there's always something new in the case for customers to sample and take home. The shop also offers pairings for the cheeses such as wine, beer, charcuterie, chocolate, olives and bread from local bakery Easy Tiger.

"What we're striving for here is an experience that you'll talk about," he said, adding that each customer gets his or her own cheesemonger to help select the perfect cheese. "We want you to be just as happy as we are. I think we're having a ton of fun in this shop, and we hope that everybody else does, too."

So far, the approach has paid off. When the business opened, Antonelli's Cheese Shop had three employees and 700 square feet of space. About two-and-a-half years later, the shop has expanded to eight employees, a cheese house across the street for wholesale and events as well as more than 40 local restaurants signed up to serve their cheese.

Jean Tucker, who was purchasing three types of cheese, some salami, a baguette and some marmalade, said she enjoys the assistance of the cheesemongers who help her find exactly what kind of cheese she is looking for.

"(The employees) are so nice, and they know so much and are so patient," she said as she finished making her order. "You can describe the thing you want, and they can give you some options. I love that, and you can't get that in most stores."

Antonelli's Cheese Shop, 4220 Duval St., 531-9610,