Portland’s cheese scene is about to get smaller, as lauded cheesemonger Steve Jones sent a newsletter on Thursday announcing the closure of his Mt. Tabor spot, Cheese Bar. The cheese and beer shop will remain open through the end of the year, and in January will host a going-out-of-business sale.
Jones has a decades-long career in cheese, and opened Steve’s Cheese, a small cheese market in Northwest Portland, in 2006. In 2010 he closed it to open Cheese Bar on the edge of Mt. Tabor, where for the last 14-odd years he’s sold a massive assortment of cheeses both imported and domestic. Beyond the chilled cases stuffed with hundreds of cheeses, the shop sold beer and wine, charcuterie, and snack boards, as well as pantry goods.
In 2014, Jones opened Chizu, a cozy downtown cheese shop modeled after sushi restaurants, including omakase cheese plates selected by the mongers. However, five years later it closed, replaced by the bespoke s’mores shop 1927 S’mores.
When COVID-19 hit the city, Cheese Bar closed for in-person dining, selling its goods instead with an online market and walk-up or call-in orders. It will continue to do so through the holidays and the new year, when it will run a closing sale from January 11 to January 24 for all of its remaining cheese, beer, wine, canned and jarred goods, and restaurant equipment. In the closing announcement, Jones and his team wrote, “After almost 16 years of independent operation we have decided to close shop and move onto other opportunities.”
Speaking with Eater, Jones confirmed that the pandemic was “absolutely” the reason for the closure. He said that sales quickly dropped to about 50 percent, and while there was a slight bump in the spring and summer, they eventually sagged again when customers felt more comfortable going to grocery stores and the like.
“We’re hoping to have an amazing holiday season,” Jones says, who has already preordered a number of specials for the season. As for the future, Jones plans to host some pop-up events at stores and shops across town — hopefully with some of his current employees — and promises to continue offering cheeses that can’t be found elsewhere in town.
November 12, 2:13 p.m.: This article was updated with statements from Steve Jones.