Why this Tampa couple got into the business of cheese

Kelly and Paul Hays have traded in their 9-to-5 corporate gigs and opened up shop in Ybor City. A cheese shop, to be exact. 

“We looked at a couple of different places and I was impressed by how storefronts had changed. I had a feeling, in my gut, that [Ybor City] was the place to be,” says Kelly Hays, co-owner of Cheeseology, a cheese-making experience that opened in January. 

After a trip to Napa Valley, with a group of friends, Kelly, and her husband Paul, became intrigued with the concept of making cheese as an activity. 

They wanted to bring that concept back to Florida and didn’t find anything like it in the Tampa Bay region. 

“We thought it was the coolest thing. When I got back to Tampa, I realized I wanted to do this and make it something really fun,” Kelly says. She searched online for competitors and found nothing. 

It became an enjoyable passion and, thus, the business of Cheeseology was born. She’d be making cheese at home, calling in Paul to come try her creations. Some of which were not so appetizing, she admits, but therein lies the craft of cheese. And that’s the focus of their new shop. 

The Hays’ envisioned a gathering place, where people could come with friends, learn to make  cheese, drink fine wine, make memories, relax and enjoy themselves. 

Classes on cheesemaking are the focal point of the business and the part that excites the Hays’  the most. 

The Hays’ built a classroom in the space, where they will be able to host private parties and teambuilding experiences, both to public guests and corporate events. In addition, they plan to host charity and fundraising events. The Hays’ have already donated more than $13,000, in classes, to local charities like the Derrick Brooks Foundation and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. 

“People want to have experiences,” Kelly says. “And they don’t want the good ones to end.” 

And so, the Hays’ created a place where they didn’t have to. 

“They can take their cheese, pick up a bottle of wine, some other elevated ‘snacks’ and go home to continue their experience,” Hays says. “We think they will keep coming back.” 

The retail part of the business will feature hard to find, and buy, wines from around the world, on a rotating basis. Think of items from Spain, France, New York and high value – not to mention tasty. 

The Hays’ have placed an intentional focus on sourcing their products from local vendors as much as possible, like honey from SeedfolfKids. Cheeseology will also offer locally made pickled vegetables, olives, balsamic vinegar, oils, jellies, jams, craft beer and more. 

“Our honey is going to be, exclusively, from a group here that supports elementary school kids and teaches them gardening and business,” Hays says. “Our oil and vinegar will be from Joe and Sons Oil, based in Tampa, and our bread will be local, from Ybor.”

The Hays are building their dream wine and cheese experience, in Ybor City, in an 125-year-old building. Renovating the building, and getting it ready to open its doors, was a labor of love but they intentionally wanted to maintain the characteristics of the original building. 

“It took us a year to get this open. We signed our lease in January, of 2023,” Paul says about the shop, which was previously a tattoo parlor. 

He adds that the support of Darryl Shaw, who has been working on major revitalization efforts in the Ybor community, has been great for the Hays’ and their vision. 

“He’s worked with us more as a partner than a landlord,” Paul says. “He believed in us” 

Now that the vision is alive, and a part of the community, the next step will be franchising, which the Hays’ are exploring in 2024. 

“Everything that we have done, and learned, through our lives has brought us to this. And even the people and relationships,” Paul says. “Tampa’s big, but there’s a lot of good people. And as long as you can find the good people to surround yourself with, you can be successful and you’re only as successful as the good people around you.” ♦

You May Also Like

Buddy Brew Academy, Powered by Victoria Arduino opens, in Tampa

Buddy Brew Academy, Powered by Victoria Arduino, a collaboration between Tampa-based Buddy Brew Coffee and Nuova Simonelli, based in Belforte del Chienti, Marche, Italy, opened in Tampa. Buddy Brew Academy,

What’s brewing with Kahwa Coffee

It’s been a busy few years for the owners of Kahwa Coffee. When Raphael and Sarah Perrier, owners of the St. Petersburg-based coffee company, aren’t releasing unique collaborations or limited-edition

Ashley Homestore officially rebrands to Ashley with store refresh nationwide (PHOTOS)

Ashley, a furniture and mattress retailer with locations across North America, plans to refresh stores nationwide. The rebrand includes an elevated, in-store shopping experience and modern look, and feel, to

A new café is planned for the ARK Innovation Center

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a tech hub for startups, in St. Petersburg, has subleased to Point Chaud Coffee & Crepes. The ARK Innovation Center, at 1101 4th Street South,

Other Posts

St. Croix Capital grows Tampa portfolio with Ybor City acquisition, reveals new-to-market tenant Celebrity Cigars

St. Croix Capital Companies, an Austin-headquartered commercial real estate firm and its Tampa-based affiliate, Cowboys and Pirates, has acquired real estate, in Ybor City. Located at 1517 E. 5th Avenue,

Flor Fina: A Culinary Gem in Ybor (PHOTOS)

When Tampa locals think of Ybor City, vivid images of the cigar industry, roosters roaming the streets and a lively nightlife often come to mind. While fine dining might not

Kahwa Coffee re-introduces Whiskey Barrel-Aged Blend in time for Father’s Day

Kahwa Coffee Roasters has released a batch of its limited-edition 17th Anniversary Whiskey Barrel-Aged Blend. The coffee beans are aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon for three months, which adds a

Midtown Tampa adds four new tenants (PHOTOS)

Midtown Tampa has added four new tenants to its multi-use property. The new additions include Brilliant Earth, a jewelry retailer, Tipsy Salonbar, a salon offering manicures and pedicures along with