Tom and Mary Ellen Power opened the first cheese shop in 1971 in Newport News. In 1973 they opened the second cheese on Prince George Street in Williamsburg. In 2003, Tom and Mary Ellen and their three adult children relocated one block to Duke of Gloucester Street. The enlarged business includes the cheese shop, wine cellar, and a fine dining restaurant, Fat Canary. The success and popularity of our family's business is due to our loyal customers, excellent purveyors and our staff. All told we've had thousands of employees in our nearly five decades of business. Our present and past employees are an integral part of our success story and they're our extended family.
The most profound memories and lessons of life are often shared over a meal. In our family it begins in the kitchen, where you'll find us cooking, talking loudly, laughing and reconnecting. Our Dad loves to select a unique wine for each course while telling one of his “stories”. Our Mom is the happiest when we're all together, three generations, all 14 of us, under one roof. Our most important memories are when the fruits of our labor are enjoyed with the people we love and with great food. We invite you to our table at the Cheese Shop and Fat Canary to create your own memories.
Cathy, Mary Ellen, and Tom Power are the second generation, continuing the work started by Mary Ellen and Thomas Power.
Back in 1971, our parents opened a little cheese shop in Warwick Center, Newport News. Our grandparents were worried that the business didn't have a chance. "There isn't enough interest or demand for cheese and wine here, " our grandfather said. "Maybe in Europe, but not in the United States and certainly not in Tidewater, Virginia." But Dad had a vision and Mom agreed to sign on. She knew that at least we'd have good food to eat regardless of the outcome.
In the early years, we kids would walk from our elementary school to help stock the shelves, sweep the floors, and distribute flyers to help promote the new establishment. It was at that time that we began to learn the values necessary to operate and build a successful business: exceptional products, attention to detail and customer service.
We were lucky that Tidewater had an educated population with an interest and appreciation for cheese, wine, and good food. Our first favorite and most loyal customer is Mrs. Mary Humelsine, the wife of Colonial Williamsburg's President Mr. Carlisle Humelsine (CW's President from 1958-1977). After two years of operating the Newport News shop, Mom and Dad were invited to sign their first lease in Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square. This happened because Mrs. Humelsine told her husband, "I am getting tired of driving all the way to Newport News for good cheese, and it’s high time that the Power’s open a shop here in Williamsburg."
The new shop in Williamsburg on Prince George Street was a "cavernous" 600 square feet. Over the years, our little family business grew, the shop enlarged to 2,000 square feet, but still too small. In 1980 our parents opened The Trellis restaurant. They owned and operated the Trellis until 1994 with their partners, John Curtis and Marcel Desaulniers. The restaurant gave us another excellent opportunity to serve great food and hone our hospitality skills.
For many years our family wanted to expand The Cheese Shop, but we all agreed we wanted to stay in Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square. In 2001 a 9,000 square foot location became available on Duke of Gloucester Street. The perfect location was finally found. After two years of extensive renovations, we moved The Cheese Shop to a 1930's-era building in the heart of Merchants Square on Duke of Gloucester Street. Our new venture incorporated a unique combination of three businesses : The Cheese Shop, our downstairs Wine Cellar, and Fat Canary restaurant.
For nearly five decades our family has worked hard to earn the trust, loyalty, and even a little acclaim. Both The Cheese Shop and Fat Canary have been written about in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washingtonian, Virginia Living, Distinction, Hampton Roads Monthly, Daily Press and Virginia Pilot. Of course, none of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of our staff.
They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Our sister Cathy started working full time in the family business right after college. She oversees all of the cheese and wine buying, and is the General Manager of the operation. Our brother Tom returned to be the Executive Chef at the Fat Canary after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park following many years working in some of the greatest kitchens throughout America. Our sister Mary Ellen returned home after years out of the state working in Sales, Marketing, and Merchandising. She currently oversees specialty food buying, marketing, and direct importing. Mom and Dad are still involved in the business. It's quite unique and truly wonderful that we are all able to work together again to carry on the original values our store began in 1971.
We are most grateful for the College of William and Mary (students, faculty and staff), Colonial Williamsburg's employees and visitors, Tidewater's many military families, and our many loyal local and regional customers for helping our family's vision become a reality.
Cathy Power Pattisall
Thomas Power, Jr.
Mary Ellen Power Rogers