Antonelli’s Cheese Story
Husband and wife, John and Kendall Antonelli, turned their passion into profit by starting Antonelli’s Cheese shop in Austin, Texas in February of 2010. Starting as a small business that cut and sold cheese for orders, the company began with just three employees but has grown significantly since.
“A week before we opened, we hired our first team member, and it’s been an amazing roller coaster of an entrepreneurial ride ever since. I still can’t believe that we’ve gotten to do what we do for 10 straight years,” says John Antonelli, Owner & Founder of Antonelli’s Cheese.
The business idea came to life right after the couple got married and were on their honeymoon in the Caribbean. John recognized that he wasn’t happy or fulfilled with the accountant job he had at the time. That realization led John to quit his full-time job to pursue a new occupation focused on his love for cheese. Over the next two years, John immersed himself in all things cheese and even interned with a world-renowned cheese ager and affineur in France.
After months of travel, studying, learning, and of course, eating, John and his wife modeled their cheese shop around the connection of sharing food. Beyond the simple act of eating, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop strives to use their cheese to bring people together through conversations and quality time with friends and loved ones.
Today, the shop has evolved to a wholesale business that now sells to 150 chefs and restaurants throughout Central Texas, as well as across the continental United States. In addition to their store, they have expanded to a cheese house where they host cheese tasting classes in hopes to further spread the joy and experience of cheese.
“We help people find their happy dance or their love of their life, cheese,” says John.
Business Pivots in response to COVID-19
When COVID-19 hit, the worldwide effect of the virus caused a significant loss of income for the shop. John and Kendall brainstormed how they could pivot their business to adapt to the changes. With the help of ShipStation, they were able to transition their brick-and-mortar shop online, allowing them to transition their 10-year business model in just 10 days.
With the immediate shut down of brick and mortar businesses, the shop had to close it’s storefront, not allowing customers into the retail shop, and transferring all sales online. In response, the couple launched a call center for orders, curbside pickup, and started Cheesemonger Live, a platform for customers to acquire more information about the inventory from the cheese experts from the shop.
Prior to the pandemic, John and Kendall hosted around 300 in-store cheese classes a year, which taught people the tastes and art of cheese. However, due to the virus canceling in-person gatherings, the couple pivoted to offering a virtual class experience that still provides their customers with the great cheeses and experiences they had before.
Through the virtual classes, customers pick up their cheese plates curbside and tune into classes on outlets such as Zoom or Facebook Live. By utilizing these digital platforms, the couple was able to host online events and continue to sell a multitude of tickets in a whole new way.
“Our events program is stronger than ever in this moment. Our team is amazing in that they are able to scale with it and we are fortunate our customers are flexible as well,” says John.
In response to the food shortages experienced in grocery stores, John and Kendall decided to put their thousands of pounds of protein to where it was needed most. By introducing a la carte option to their website, stores such as H-E-B and Whole Foods were able to stock their shelves again using protein from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Combined with creating their Cheese 101 in a Box, a virtual tasting you can gift or do yourself, and partnering with a winery for a wine & cheese tasting, the business’s online presence took off.
ShipStation’s Impact On the Business
Partnering with ShipStation earlier this year, Antonelli’s was able to scale their ecommerce store through the uncertainty of COVID-19. By utilizing ShipStation to automate the manual work of shipping, the team is able to focus their attention to serving the customer’s needs.
“It allowed them to handle the massive volume of business that was about to come. And when it did come, it allowed them to handle it, just the effort needed to be put into getting the boxes out the door, not making the paperwork happen. And so that’s really how we ended up leveraging ShipStation,” says John.
Antonelli’s uses UPS as their main carrier, and with the help of ShipStation, they can access carrier discounts to get the best shipping rates with UPS. In addition, ShipStation allows Antonelli’s to seamlessly integrate with Volusion which provides a smoother interface to create less hassle for their employees.
Due to ShipStation’s accessible one-stop destination for all of Antonelli’s ecommerce and shipping needs, the business is able to better concentrate on their team and customers. The couple can focus on taking their cheese shop to the next level by focusing less time on shipping and more time on creating unique business opportunities.