Hickory Farms of Ohio, Where Are You?

I knew good cheese from an early age.The grocery where I worked cut Cooper’s New York Cheddar off the wheel, either aged sharp (white) or mild (yellow).The sharp was formidable.My Italian grandparents always had a few nice table cheeses — provolone, cacciocavallo,fontina, and the like, plus parmigiano and Romano grating cheeses.At college in Montreal, I was introduced to the ripe French-type cheeses and the local Oka Bleu.As a graduate student in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there were dairy stores whereI stocked up on fontinella and Kasseri.But, my education really began at the Hickory Farms store in South Miami circa 1970, while I was a doctoral student at the University of Miami.

Caerphilly from DiBruno.com1

When graduate students were invited to faculty homes in that era, the centerpiece always consisted of Hickory Farms cheese balls and beef sticks (summer sausage).The cheese balls with their mixture of cheddar and bleu, rolled in nuts, led me to the store.And what a store it was!The list of cheeses sounded like the John Cleese - Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch, except that these were all in stock.


Caerphilly, Wensleydale, Stilton, Cheshire, English cheddar,ricotta salata, double Gloucester, Italian fontina, port du salud, wonderful Camembert, pecarino Romano, sharp American and Canadian cheddars, and, finally,reblochon.

I was hooked.We went vegetarian for a couple of years and hardly noticed the lack of meat, so good was the cheese.

Moving to the Midwest in 1972, we immediately located a Hickory Farms store in Peoria and went right on with what a hippy friend called “cheese bigotry”.When a new Hickory Farms order was loaded onto the table with bread and wine, he retracted his criticism and said we had every right to be cheese bigots with such a luxurious spread. We were introduced to a local priest with family in Peoria, who was glad to stop at Hickory Farms with our order from time to time.I think he enjoyed grabbing big chunks of cheese and putting them in his shopping cart and then checking out a sizeable order with one of our checks.Reblochon, however, was no longer on the menu.


The free-standing Hickory Farms stores closed a few years later, reemerging in small malls as gift boutiques.Gone were the rows of hand cut cheeses.All that remained were packaged cheese assortments, crackers, cheese balls, and beef sticks.Not a Caerphilly to be found. Nor a Cheshire. The Cheese Shop Sketch had come true.
Little by little we found import stores in Chicago, Peoria, and St. Louis that carried some of our basic requirements.Whole food stores filled in some of the gaps.I smuggled a reeking Reblochon into O’Hare from Frankfurt.I have never again seen Caerphilly in a store, but DiBruno offers it by mail.The cheese pictures here are from their website.We now have to mail-order or call ahead for some of our favorites, and shop several stores to obtain the cheese variety that we were once able to find in one place back in the golden age of Hickory Farms of Ohio, when it was a cheese store.The cheese store.


Postscript: The Hickory Farms website says they can ship your favorites, so I requested a couple of my old favorites:

Question: Can you supply me with Caerphilly and Wensleydale in retail quantities?I used to get them from your Peoria store on University Drive.

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding purchasing our Caerphilly and Wensleydale cheeses. 

We are sorry that this item is currently not available online or in our catalog as an individual item.Let us recommend that you call one of our stores at 1-800-721-4780 and they may be able to assist you.