The Corner Counter in Red Hook, NY, only opened in April of this year, but they already have a loyal following from those who are looking for cheese, a quick grab-and-go lunch, or a craft beer, cider or natural wine.
Only the beginning
Lauren Cunningham-Housman began working on a plan for opening a shop years ago.
“I was in my early-30s and working in finance and accounting. I enjoyed cheese as a hobby. I would always go to speciality stores when traveling, bring cheese plates to parties, and take cheese and wine pairing classes. I was questioning ‘what do I want to do for the rest of my life?’ and thought ‘maybe I can turn my interest in cheese into a career,’” she says.
So Lauren left her corporate job and began working at Murray’s Cheese in New York City. She also enrolled in a culinary management program at the Institute of Culinary Education. She first started in their cheese caves, which is where she learned about the process of making and aging cheese.
“It was a cool starting experience,” Lauren says. “I worked behind the counter at Murray’s Bleecker Street location after that, and started teaching classes there as well.”
When she had her first child, Lauren took a step back and began working in an office role, where she was a buyer and brand manager. Eventually moving to Philadelphia, she continued to work remotely for Murray’s. While on maternity leave with her second child in 2020, right before the pandemic, she decided to leave Murray’s to focus on her family.
“We then decided to relocate to the Hudson Valley, and started looking on both sides of the river for areas that would support a cheese shop and be a place to raise our children,” she says. “Lo and behold, we discovered Red Hook.”
The community in Red Hook immediately drew Lauren and her husband in. “It is a small, close knit community with a really welcoming feel. Another thing that we loved was the open space and the farms. Red Hook is committed to keeping a lot of that space preserved as farmland, and that’s important.”
Offerings for any time of day
“I’ve visited and researched a lot of food businesses over the years and learned what works and what doesn’t. In the city, you can get away with being just one thing, but knowing that we were going to be in a smaller village, I wanted to have a broader menu and offerings to ensure that we can serve everyone,” Lauren explained.
A broad menu, indeed. The Corner Counter offers a variety of pantry picks stacked on tables and shelves when you first walk in; baked goods and pastries on the display counter; a variety of local cheeses; a full menu of sandwiches, salads and small plates; and perhaps most unexpectedly, a shelf full of local wines, beers, and ciders.
The Corner Counter sources from many Hudson Valley producers including Chaseholm Farm in Pine Plains, Churchtown Dairy in Hudson, R&G Cheesemakers in Troy, Nettle Meadow Farm in Lake Luzerne, Northwind Farms in Tivoli, and La Salumina in Hurleyville. For produce, they keep it even more local, sourcing from Plain Meadow Farm in Tivoli and Hearty Roots in Germantown, both of which are a short trip north from Red Hook.
Their drink menu is full of local, familiar New York State names as well. They carry beers from Suarez Family Brewery in Hudson and Lasting Joy Brewery in Tivoli, ciders from Rose Hill in Red Hook, Left Bank in Catskill, and Scrumpy Ewe in West Fulton, and wines from Ravines Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes.
Lauren shares that The Corner Counter is currently working on rolling out its fall and winter menus. “We’re going to be offering stouts and porters for seasonal brews, seasonal cheeses, and specialty holiday items as well.”
“What makes a cheese seasonal?” I ask. Lauren’s eyes lit up.
She tells me that the nature of making cheese is seasonal to begin with, since the makeup of the cheese depends on what the animals are eating. For instance, in the summer months animals are grazing on fresh pasture vs. in the winter, animals are indoors eating more of a hay-based diet, the milk is going to have a higher fat content, which makes the cheese richer and decadent.
Other goodies on the fall/winter menu will include soups and harvest salads, and a raclette plate on the bar snacks menu, starting in early October. The Corner Counter is also looking to build its catering program to better serve the community.
Going forward, Lauren is interested in partnering with the community to host events, classes, and workshops. She’s working on introducing programming this winter, including ticketed events with local wineries and breweries, and pop up events with local chefs.
“We want to promote cheese education through classes and working with local schools. I also want to provide education opportunities for our staff by bringing them to visit local farms and cheesemakers. That’s what drew me to cheese initially, the stories behind the cheese and learning about the cheesemakers.”
Lauren also wants the community to know that the space at the Corner Counter is open if community members want to have a club meeting or a private event.
“We’re always open to ideas and suggestions from the community and what people are interested in, whether that’s an event or even something that they would like us to carry or see on the menu.”
The Corner Counter
1 E Market St, Red Hook, NY 12571