After stumbling upon the beautiful exterior of the I.J. Mellis cheese mongers in Edinburgh during our Autumn / Winter ’17 Tartan campaign shoot and using the location in our shots, we decided to investigate more about the founder and his unique business.
Tell us how I J Mellis was established.
I left school not knowing what I was going to do and I stumbled on a laboratory technician job for a Milk Marketing board up in Inverness. The job involved testing dairy products, and I had to learn all about the science behind them. I was sent to agricultural college in Reaseheath, Cheshire, and it was from there that I grew a love for cheese-making. I was sent all over the North of Scotland and ended up in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, where I learned to make cheese.
It was when I moved to Cheshire, England that I started to formulate a plan to do something for myself. I knew I’d like to move back up to Scotland and Edinburgh was always a great love of mine. I realised that there wasn’t a cheese shop in Edinburgh at the time so in 1993 I moved to Edinburgh and started a cheese shop in Victoria Street.
Why is I.J. Mellis unique?
When I started the shop I was influenced by stores I had seen in France, Chester and London and I started to read about the history of cheese mongers. It was something that went on for years in the UK before dying out. The way we piled our cheese on the counters was the old-fashioned way of doing it. We are traditional, everything is done over the counter and that’s what makes us unique.
How do you pick your suppliers and produce?
I had knowledge of the cheese industry before I started so when I began the business, I started with what I knew. There were over 200 small cheese-makers in Cheshire but only one traditional cheese-maker remained. That’s where I began sourcing my cheese. As you travel the country and research lots of information comes across for new cheese-makers. It’s a case of asking people and learning.
Why do you want to create an old-fashioned sense of style and service?
I’ve never been a follower of fashion, you could call me a traditionalist. To me its longevity that counts, it’s not being in one minute and out the next. It was important to me to give a service that people would remember, that young people could experience for the first time.
What made you start a business in Edinburgh?
I’m from Scotland and as I grew up I visited Edinburgh and developed a love for the city. It’s wonderful, one of the most fantastic cities. I moved down to England in Cheshire and though I liked it, I think I craved a bit more culture and city lifestyle. London was too big for me, Edinburgh seemed the perfect sized city where you could walk around a city that had culture. There’s plenty going on, I would say it’s the ideal place to live.