By CASS MARRETT
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but it seems Covid does.
Gibbston Valley Cheesery owners Bess and Kevin Paul have made the difficult decision to shut their Arrowtown ‘pop-up’ shop to focus more on the wholesale side of the cheese business.
It comes after the latest Covid lockdown, the Pauls citing government’s lack of certainty and a staffing shortage in the region as some of the reasons they’ve decided to close the doors.
‘‘We feel like businesses are going ahead with the hand brake on and just every time you make a plan … Covid happens,’’ Bess says.
‘‘Getting staff is probably the main reason for closing the shop because I just can’t see us finding the staff that we need for the busy time over Christmas and New Year.’’
Recently, the business went from four full-time staff to two and Bess says Gibbston local
Vicki Robinson had been instrumental in helping them fill staffing gaps.
This isn’t the first time the cheesery has been stung by Covid.
Just before the first lockdown, their lease at their original location, Gibbston Valley Winery, ended and they were unable to extend it.
Last Tuesday night, the couple hosted what they cheekily called a ‘pivoting party’.
Queenstown’s first couple, mayor Jim Boult and mayoress, Karen, were there along with about 60 locals to show support for the couple and their cheeses.
Looking back on the business since taking it over in 2007, Kevin says when they were based in Gibbston, ‘‘it would be some of the best times of my life’’.
‘‘Teaching people to try some cheese that didn’t eat cheese … I used to have a spiel where I said, ‘this is the cheese I sell to people that don’t eat cheese’ and with that, they would look at it and try it, and we had them,’’ he says.
Kevin’s particularly proud of Gibbston Cheese’s innovation with sheep’s milk, coming from
a sheep and beef farming background with Bess.
‘‘Gibbston Valley Cheese just before us probably was getting sheep’s milk from the first sheep milkers in the country,’’ he says.
‘‘Our Balfour cheese has been award-winning and we’ve tweaked it and work in various styles, and it’s almost unique to itself.’’
Despite feeling sad over closing the shop, the couple’s looking forward to being able to ‘‘focus on our individual styles’’ and more time for research and development.
‘‘Our wholesale side is grow ing nationwide, sometimes it’s a struggle to keep up with supply to the bigger market, so we’ve had to make some decisions [about] where to put our energy,’’ Kevin says.
Gibbston Vallery Cheesery will continue to operate its online store and stock wholesalers.