Isaac Bignell unapologetically loves the good things in life. His appreciation for fine wine, fine cheese and a fashionable pair of boots are all part of his considerable charm, but the young entrepreneur is also making a name for himself through hard work and dedication to building strong communities. He’s best known as the owner of Say Cheese Fromagerie, the exceptionally well-stocked cheese counter at Crossroads Market, but is also the founder and chair of the Crossroads Marketing Committee and part of the board of the Inglewood BIA.
Bignell bought Say Cheese from previous proprietor Nancy Brown last year, after spending a few years working there. He fits right in at the eclectic Crossroads Market and has been careful to honour the shop’s long legacy (it has been in the market since 1999), while also inserting his own panache. With everything from hard-to-find high-end Comtés to more budget-conscious cheddars and goudas behind the counter, and a calendar full of wheel openings and tasting events, Bignell’s strength lies in a balance of effervescence and expertise. “I don’t like mediocracy, it’s too boring,” Bignell says. “It’s all about sharing my passion with other passionate people.” When he’s not behind the cheese counter, Bignell frequents these spots in the neighbourhood and beyond.
“It’s this slightly punk, without actually being punk, restaurant run by Bill Bonar, who is a cicerone [beer sommelier]. I don’t even drink beer, but I absolutely love his restaurant. It has one of the best charcuterie menus in the city with proper meats, cheese and conservas.”
“This homey spot does pay-what-you-can drip coffee. So, if you get off the No. 1 bus and you’re cold, you can go get a coffee if you have a nickel. Everyone can feel the space is for them, which doesn’t really happen a lot.”
“When you go see films in a small theatre like the Plaza, it almost feels like live theatre in how the audience interacts with the film. When you see these really intimate, niche films [like The Rocky Horror Picture Show], you can meet people of the same mind. There’s a shared humanity.”
“I like spending three or four hours in a restaurant and being able to just take it easy — you can do that at D.O.P. It’s not hard to find great food in the city, but for the service to be so on point is pretty incredible.”
“If you want great pho in Forest Lawn, this is the place to go. I’m six foot four — a giant — and sometimes I can’t finish a bowl, they’re so big.”
“The owner, Richard Harvey, kind of developed the high-end wine market here in Calgary and he doesn’t pander to anyone. When you’re passionate and care about what you sell, you’ll attract people with the same passion. I look up to Richard in that way.”
“I like that you can go get a pair of jeans there that will last at least four or five years and still look excellent because of the quality. The staff will not let you walk out of there in something that doesn’t suit your body type or shape.”
“It feels a bit like Cheers when you walk into this bar. I know all the bartenders because it’s small and there are only three of them. Once you’ve been there a few times, they get to know you, too.”
“I love amateur theatre as much as I like full-fledged professional theatre and huge opera productions; there is something so intimate and lovely about it. Pumphouse did a gender-reverse Pirates of Penzance that was a lot of fun.”
“I love the public art installation [Bloom], by the bridge. There’s usually an owl or hawk’s nest on it each year; it’s neat that we can have that right in the middle of a giant metropolitan city.”