Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck to change hands

Michael Affatato and Rosemary Batcheller outside The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Michael Affatato and Rosemary Batcheller outside The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

A Love Lane staple that offers a taste of Europe in Long Island Wine Country will soon have a new owner.

The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck will officially change hands Sept. 15, when its original owner, Rosemary Batcheller, passes the store on to her friend Michael Affatato.

“The biggest question is, ‘Is it going to stay the same,’ ” Batcheller said during an interview at the shop. “And it is. But I think new eyes and new energy is never a bad thing.”

Batcheller, who purchased the building and opened the business in 2001 with her then-husband, Adam, is taking some time off from work to care for her ailing mother, Isabella Daly, as well as fix up her 1920s-era Mattituck cottage.

“I just felt like it was the right time and the right thing to do,” Batcheller said. “I’m pulled in opposite directions. A business like this needs the physical, hands-on presence of someone who really cares.”

It’s a role she thinks Affatato is ready to fill.

A Rocky Point native and father of two teenage girls, Affatato spent most of his adult life living in France. There, he worked in the wine retail business and later owned and operated the Bordeaux vineyard Chateau La Gatte with his then-wife, Hélène. They sold the vineyard in 2013.

Affato said he plans to add another cheese case to the shop in order to accommodate its expanding inventory. He also plans to increase the number of wine-related events held at the store.

“I’m not going to take away anything,” he said. “The only change people will see is a bit more products and selections.”

Expect the same assortments of bleu, brie and cheddar among the store’s other offerings.

The shop will also continue to stock fresh breads from Brooklyn’s Tom Cat Bakery and sinfully rich brownies from Erica’s Rugelach and Baking Company, also in Brooklyn.

Although he has no formal training in the cheese trade, Affatato said it was a natural progression after spending more than two decades working with wine.

“The two go perfectly together,” he said. “In France, I was exposed to the best cheeses daily. I had a chance to eat and drink everything.”

Batcheller will lease the building to Affatato, who will keep it painted its signature cheese-like color.

The pair first met and became friends when Affatato’s father, Edward, visited the store to ask if they would carry his son’s French wine. Affatato, who had moved back to the States in 2013 to care for his now-deceased father and mother, Gloria, approached Batcheller about taking over the business.

“It’s an extremely amicable arrangement,” Affatato said.

After owning The Village Cheese Shop in Southampton since 1996 — the same year “Cheese Primers” by Steven Jenkins was released — Batcheller had considered to the top fork to open a second store. At the turn of the millennium, South Fork rents had began to rise and she and her husband began to look elsewhere.

On Love Lane, they found a former florist shop that was perfect because it came with low-voltage refrigeration for flowers (also great for cheese), and a charming glass-covered patio.

“It was my husband’s idea to come to the North Fork and purchase our real estate,” Batcheller said. “It was the perfect size and the perfect block.”

They sold the South Fork business in 2009.

In the 14 years since it opened on Love Lane, The Village Cheese Shop has become a must-stop for Wine Country visitors and for locals looking for high-end ingredients to enhance their meals.

About the business’ popularity, Batcheller said: “It is humbling to have people tell me that the cheese shop has become a destination in its own right. Over the years I’ve tried to just keep my nose to the grindstone and not pay too much attention to those kinds of statements. Having said that, it’s a warm and wonderful feeling to know a collective creative effort has given pleasure to those that live on and visit the North Fork. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

vchinese@timesreview.com