Keg & Case Market, the big-deal food hall that's going into the former keg house at St. Paul's historic Schmidt Brewery complex, just signed another anchor tenant.
The name is Gazta & Enhancements, and the innovative project is the work of Haley and Tony Fritz, the couple behind the O'Cheeze and Dough Dough food trucks. The cheese-focused operation will occupy a prime spot near the market's main entrance.
"We're very, very excited about this project," said Haley Fritz. "It's something we've wanted to do for a long time. When we go on vacation, we head to cheese bars. And we think, 'You know what? We could do this, and do it better.'"
The concept – a bar with a dozen seats, plus a few tables, including an eight-top for larger parties – will focus on cheese plates.
The plan is to stock 50 to 60 artisan varieties of cheese – roughly half culled from the Upper Midwest ("Our hope and our dream is to buy directly from small creameries," said Tony Fritz), the rest from standout cheesemakers from around the country and around the world ("Cheeses that don't have a presence in Minnesota," he added). Those cheeses will be served with a wide variety of house-made jams, spreads and other "enhancements."
"Each cheese will be matched with an enhancement that will fit, perfectly," said Haley Fritz. "Think 'mint honey,' or a pistachio paste."
A full liquor license means that the couple (both have extensive bartending experience) will call upon local beers and liquors, as well as American wines, as the launch pad, pairing-wise.
"The cheese plates will start with the drink they're consuming, whether it's a deep merlot, or a super-hoppy beer from a local brewery," said Haley Fritz. "We'll base the cheese selections off that flavor palate."
Gazta (it's the Basque word for cheese; Haley's family hails from the Basque region) will also feature a retail counter for cheese purchases. A small, separate satellite shop elsewhere in the market will focus on cheese-related merchandise: boards, knives, take-home versions of the accompaniments and other merchandise.
The couple also plans to offer classes and host cheesemakers. There's also going to be a catering component.
"People will be able to order party platters that are set up and ready to go," said Haley Fritz. "All they'll have to do is remove the plastic wrap."
The project, which will be staffed by an estimated 20 employees, began as a tiny stall, but grew to match the couple's ambitions.
"The second that we heard about the market, we knew we had to be involved in it," said Haley Fritz. "It's going to be such a cool place, a real destination for St. Paul."
Some of those other businesses include a restaurant by Corner Table and Revival co-owners Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone, as well as a branch of Five Watt Coffee and the first scoop shop for Sweet Science Ice Cream. The bulding's mezzanine will be occupied by beermakers Jordan Standish and Max Boeke and their Clutch Brewing Co. "Beer is being brewed at Schmidt again," said developer Craig Cohen.
The Fritzes said that, if all goes as planned, Gazta & Enhancements will be up and running by next April.
This is one busy couple. They launched Dough Dough, their food truck specializing in cookie dough, earlier this year. That concept is already being funneled into a brick-and-mortar location, at the Mall of America. Look for the shop to open on Oct. 27 on the mall's third floor, near Sears.
And the brick-and-mortar version of O'Cheeze is still a go – in the skyway at 7th and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis -- although the process has taken longer – a lot longer -- than the planned early June opening.
"It has been one hurdle after another," said Haley Fritz, noting the site's many unforeseen mechanical issues. "We haven't been able to break ground yet, but we hope to in the next few weeks. From there, it's probably eight weeks of construction. But to be honest, we've stopped putting timelines on that project."
They've also got an 18-month old, and a second child is due in January.
"But that's how we like to work," said Tony Fritz. "We love the food business, and we love opening businesses. It's kind of an addiction. Hopefully we'll slow down after all of this, but it's hard to say."