For years, Alexandra Gouirand felt that Olympia needed a high-quality cheese shop. But the more she waited for someone else to open one, the more she realized that she should be the one to open that shop.
And why not? After all, Gouirand, 41, is French — and France knows a thing or two about fromage.
But before she could open that business, Gouirand was still teaching French at South Puget Sound Community College, something she did for 10 years.
She planned her opening for two years, taking business classes at the community college and receiving coaching at the Washington Center for Women in Business, which is based at the community college’s Lacey campus.
Gouirand called that experience “tremendously helpful” because the Center for Women in Business reviewed her business plan and provided advice.
“Work not just in the business, but on the business,” said Gouirand, recalling a piece of advice that stood out as she planned for the opening.
She finally opened the Mouse Trap in a 1,100-square-foot space in downtown Olympia on Nov. 29. The business is home to regional cheeses, and those from Spain, France and Switzerland.
Here are some of the specialties that customers will find at the store, and a few wines Gouirand recommends pairing with them:
▪ Chimatomme: A raw goat’s-milk cheese produced in the Chimacum Valley, in Jefferson County. It’s a sharp, pungent cheese that goes well with a robust red wine.
▪ Humboldt Fog: A Northern California goat’s-milk cheese with a strip of vegetable ash. Consume this with a brighter white wine, such as a pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
▪ L’amuse gouda: A hard gouda from the Netherlands, aged six months. Serve this with a light red wine, such as a shiraz.
▪ Epoisses: A French, creamy cheese that can be eaten with a spoon. It’s pungent, but also very flavorful.
And that’s just the beginning. The store also sells other items to complement cheese, such as fondue sets or a kitchen appliance called a raclette, which melts cheese in little trays. There’s also a selection of hard-to-find items that appealed to Gouirand, such as Fleur de Sel, a sea salt from the Brittany area of France.
Since opening, the curious have already become return customers, and she’s even had days where she’s had to wait on a line of people.
Gouirand said she hopes to attract the same kind of customers who frequent other specialty retailers downtown, such as the Wine Loft, Olympia Seafood Co. and Encore Chocolates & Teas.
The Mouse Trap
Owner: Alexandra Gouirand.
Location: 408 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
Type of business: Specialty cheese retailer.
Years in business: New. Opened Nov. 29.
Employees: 2, including Gouirand.
Online: Find the business on Facebook or at www.olymousetrap.com.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Did you know? Gouirand taught French for 10 years at South Puget Sound Community College before opening her business. She is French, born and raised outside Paris near Versailles. She spent the first 19 years of her life in France before going to Hampshire College in Massachusetts and the University of Washington for graduate studies in Russian literature. Her favorite Russian writer is Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.