Among the yoga studio, boutique pet supply store, luxury goods shop and craft breweries, the Cass Corridor can now claim to be home to a unique cheese and chocolate shop.
Mongers' Provisions debuted quietly Friday, a few days ahead of their scheduled Dec. 8 grand opening. The owners Zach Berg and William Werner — cheese and chocolate experts, respectively — call themselves "culinary outfitters."
Like a tailor who may help you find the right fit of suit or dress, these two longtime friends are happy assist in finding the perfect hunk of farmhouse cheddar or block of exotic chocolate to go with a special dinner or to top off a gift basket. They also make custom charcuterie boards in variety of price points.
The 1,028-square-foot Midtown store not only serves a vastly bigger selection than their Ferndale space — which opened last year within Farm Field Table butcher shop — but they also have a lot of items, particularly on the chocolate shelf, that you rarely see in Metro Detroit.
"Very few shops in the country have a selection this big of this kind of chocolate," said Werner, who stocks chocolate from around the world, chocolate spreads and chocolate bitters for cocktail-making. He has varieties in mint, tahini, fruits and even a chocolate made with porcini mushrooms. The fungi taste is subtle and makes for a rich, earthy bite.
Even more unique, Provisions has a Fossa brand white chocolate bar made with salted duck egg and cereal. If a $14 bar of salted duck egg white chocolate isn't peak "new Detroit," then I don't know what is.
It's easy to make fun, though, and wave the gentrification flag, but the truth is that the neighborhood Cass Corridor is today can likely sustain a shop like this.
"We're really excited to find out what this neighborhood wants," said Berg, who admits that opening a cheese shop in downtown Detroit was a bonkers idea a decade ago. "To get to the point where now it's not a silly idea is really exciting. Will and I both had grandparents (and great grandparents) that owned businesses in Detroit, so to be coming back to open up a business in Detroit is really awesome."
Berg said they're open to carrying coffee, loose tea and other low-cost items that people in the immediate area may need. Down the line they're planning to open a grilled cheese counter (with something like a $5-$8 price point) inside Provisions, too.
"Similar to Avalon (International Breads), we have it in our minds that there's an answer to both Detroits ... how do we get that answer we haven't fully decided," he added. "We want to sell to all of Detroit ... we think Detroit's growing in a really exciting way,"
"Will once said it's a first-class city and it deserves first-class amenities. So it deserves a cheese shop. It deserves an artisan chocolate shop."
Both guys, who have been friends since before high school, have the right background for this business. Werner was a manager at Gayle's Chocolate in Royal Oak and has studied chocolate around the world; Berg has experience in kosher catering, worked at Zingerman's Deli and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.
But beyond that, these two absolutely beam with a love of food.
Berg can tell you details about the Italian family from whom he got a giant wheel of Parmigano Reggiano from and their history. Profess an interest in any type of cheese in his cooler, and he'll cut you a piece to taste while telling you about the farm where it comes from.
Get Werner going, and he'll chat about the origin of cacao beans and the complexities of Peruvian beans or the alluring, colorful wrapping of Hungarian chocolate bars.
Besides stocking local products among the international foods — including Stamatopoulos & Sons olive oil and Gus & Grey jams and jellies — Provisions uses local woodworkers for their boards and counters and has local collaborations like a cheese using beer from Jolly Pumpkin and Manchester cheese from Zingerman's
Berg, Werner and their knowledgeable staff will host a grand opening party Dec. 8 with samples, complimentary hot chocolate and raclette cheese demonstrations.
Mongers' Provisions is at 4240 Cass, Suite 111 in Detroit. Hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tues.-Wed., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Call (313) 651-7119 or visit mongersprovisions.com.