We regret to report that this past weekend, cheese industry luminary and Founder of Saxelby Cheesemongers Anne Saxelby passed away. She was known for her work in pioneering specialty cheeses in the American market at a time when European imports were the primary products sold Stateside.
“She was a humble and masterful advocate for American cheesemakers, fostering a deep appreciation for the craft and people behind the cheese,” Adeline Druart, industry friend to Saxelby and President of Vermont Creamery, said, according to a report from the Specialty Food Association.
Saxelby started her company in 2006, breaking onto the specialty cheese scene with a concept quite new to the market: a cheese shop carrying only American cheeses from smaller brands. In 2017, the quick growth of her business allowed Saxelby to open a larger facility in Chelsea Market, New York, and a warehouse in Red Hook, later closing her initial Essex Street store in 2019.
Early on in many American cheese brands’ growth, Saxelby advocated for the market and helped to get smaller suppliers in front of big-name buyers. Jasper Hill Farms experienced growth in its wheels and wedges programs thanks to this relationship.
“We grew up in cheese together,” Mateo Kehler, who started Jasper Hill Farm with his brother, Andy, said by phone to The New York Times. “Thanks to her, our cheeses are on menus all over the city.”
Of course, these relationships also fostered Saxelby’s visibility on the buy-side.
“Anne Saxelby was the U.S. ambassador for American cheese makers and their handmade cheeses,” said Steven Jenkins, a former cheesemonger at Fairway Market, in a statement. “Her yearslong, tireless effort to promote them and make them mainstream will forever have its effect, and will long be remembered.”
Early in her career, Saxelby learned the trade of cheesemaking while working at Cato Corner Farm. Her next move was to serve beloved New York shop Murray’s Cheese for a year.
“She was among the most talented of those I trained,” Rob Kaufelt, the store’s former Owner, said in an email to The New York Times.
She went on to travel across France and Italy, and brought back the knowledge she gained to support American cheesemakers.
As Saxelby Cheesemongers continues, Benoit Breal, her business partner, said the company will move forward “one step at a time,” stating that it plans to “continue [its] mission to be the bridge between local cheese makers and the consumers for many years to come.”
Saxelby is survived by her mother; a son, Max Martins; two daughters, Reggie and Josie Martins; a sister, Megan Saxelby; and a brother, Bill.
We send our condolences to those closest to Anne Saxelby, and hope to help carry on her memory long into the future.