Every month we’ll be spotlighting a different Woodlands employee to connect you with our team and learn more about what they do day in and day out to keep their departments running smoothly. We appreciate our hard-working employees and want you to get to know them!

Rizalde (known as Riz) Mendoza has been in charge of our San Francisco store’s cheese department since it opened one year ago, and in that time, he has worked to make the most of our store’s small footprint and offer a surprisingly wide variety of cheeses in a limited space.

Can you tell us about your background in the cheese industry?

I’ve been with Woodlands since the San Francisco store opened one year ago. Before joining the Woodlands team, I was a grocery store Cheese Manager for 10 years. Years ago, when I was initially given a job in the cheese department, I didn’t really know much about cheese. Through my own research I slowly taught myself about the wide world of cheese to the point where I’d like to think that I’m now an expert on cheese. Over the past 10 years I’ve learned a lot about how to run a department and what selection of products to keep in stock to keep customers happy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Mondays and Thursdays are my order days, when I check stock on our products and order anything that we’re running low on. As the store’s cheese buyer, I have the prerogative to buy any cheese from any vendor or dairy farm, and I enjoy ordering some new items and seeing how our customers respond to them. I’m also in charge of buying olives for the olive bar. Most of the olives we have in stock go well with spicy cheeses, and I enjoy pairing them together.

After ordering, I start cutting and wrapping cheese, and try to find some time to cut samples of new cheeses I get from new vendors so our customers can discover them—tasting is everything with cheese. With tastings, you may walk out of the store with a new favorite cheese that you may not have even heard of before walking in.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are our busiest days, and we make sure to keep on top of inventory when the weekend rolls around.

What are your customers like in the San Francisco store?

We have lots of return customers and regulars from all around the neighborhood, including people who work nearby and live at LUMINA and Infinity across the street. There are a lot of developments rising around us, and though we’re busy now, we know that this store will get much busier as time goes on. That’s why we’re trying to bring more of a selection and variety of cheese into the store.

We get great feedback from customers, who tell us that they love the wide variety and selection of cheeses that we offer, especially local chesses from Sonoma, Petaluma and Castro Valley such as Cowgirl Creamery and Cypress Grove.

What is your favorite part of working at Woodlands?

My favorite part has to be how great an environment it is to work in. It’s like a family working here—the managers and owners really listen to us, take care of us well, and as a result there’s very little stress on the job.

Because I love cheese so much, I’m very happy working this job. I love recommending new things to customers. Please come by and say hi, and I’ll be glad to offer you samples of anything you’d like to taste, or suggest something that would go well with a meal or wine.