Walking into Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Market is refreshing: a tasteful layout, a refrigerator stocked full of artisan soda pop and pleasant, accommodating employees. A relative newcomer to Temescal, this market overflows with tasty treats: condiments, pasta and cheese, cheese, cheese.
Co-owner Jena Davidson Hood, who sports two full-sleeve tattoos, likens her shop — which specializes in locally-sourced products, particularly an abundant selection from Northern California cheese companies — to a “punk rock cheese store,” a notion expressed in punked-out tattooed-like logo and signage and one that’s shared by regulars who appreciate how Hood strives to make local more accessible to the average Joe. The store’s centerpiece is its glass counter where ample samples are doled out to eager customers.
Hood hails from Virginia; therefore, a small area of the shop showcases products from her home state. A chef by trade, she worked in Tennessee and Virginia before traveling to the Bay Area on a visit to see her brother. She fell in love with the area and worked with SF’s chef Michael Mina for two years before partnering with her mother and brother, Bernice and Merrick Davidson, to open Sacred Wheel in January 2011.
“My biggest mission was to get people who are not frequenters of high-end specialty markets to feel comfortable,” says Hood. She had a base knowledge of cheeses before opening the shop, but a passion for small-batch local artisan foods in general was her underlying inspiration for Sacred Wheel — and likely her reason for falling in love with the Oakland area.
Sacred Wheel also sells prepared foods, many exhibiting an interesting twist such as Pabst Blue Ribbon in tomato soup, The Flying Pig grilled cheese sandwich that marries smoked ham, brie and apples, or a Reuben stacked with kraut, hot Dijon mustard and turkey pastrami.
The shop boasts a lively Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SacredWheel) where specials are announced and entertaining pictures abound, including cheese creations (one in the shape of a cow!) and cheese memes (such as pictures of cows “kissing” the camera that captioned, “how ‘bout those lips.”).
If you’re looking for a selection of fancy cheeses without the exorbitant price tag or the associated snobbery, this is your new local cheese shop.
Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Market, open daily, 4935 Shattuck Ave., (510) 653-1653, www.sacredwheelcheeseshop.com