Walking into Alexandra Gouirand’s beautiful cheese shop, I felt like I wanted to be trapped for a very long time. A unique assortment of cheeses, chocolates, wines, sauces and oils as well as cheese wares surrounded me in this trendy shop, which opened in late November 2015. The Mouse Trap is the latest addition to the wonderful food and beverage specialty shops in downtown Olympia.

creative office“Being close to the Olympia Farmers Market, Olympia Seafood Company, the Wine Loft and Encore Tea and Chocolates was a primary consideration in choosing this space when it became available in the fall,” Alex explained. She did not consider any other location in the two years she spent planning her first creative business venture.

Over the years, I have mostly conversed with Alex, my former colleague at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), passing through the halls, but she said it felt right to be in The Mouse Trap behind the cheese counter rather than behind the podium teaching French and English as January brought the beginning of winter quarter.

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Darlene Kemery is ready to share her love of The Mouse Trap cheese with her co-workers.

Launching a new business is a long process from idea to reality. The idea for the perfect gourmet cheese shop in Olympia had been incubating for five years, but Alex got serious about three years ago. To be ready to even conceive of looking for space, Alex said, “I needed the coaching, training, and networking I was provided by the Washington Center for Women in Business at the SPSCC Lacey campus and some classes in Small Business Management. With confidence from all that support, I attempted my business plan.”

Out of the plan emerged The Mouse Trap. When asked about the name of the store, Alex assured me she had it in mind for years. “It is not a reference to Agatha Christie’s famous mystery or the popular game.” Alex’s friend, Sara Gettys, the videographer at SPSCC, and owner of her own design studio, created the catching logo. In addition to her business cards, Alex offers aprons and kitchen towels with the design.

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Sara Gettys designed the logo used on the Mouse Trap business cards as well as aprons and kitchen towels.

During the opening weeks, Alex had the assistance of her sister, a chef, who was visiting from France. “It wasn’t just the free cheese that kept me working here, “ her sister laughingly commented. “I loved watching the customers taste the cheese and looking at the happiness on their faces. Cheese has its way of making people smile.”

While visiting The Mouse Trap, I met a few returning customers. Darlene Kemery from the nearby Olympia Downtown Association office wanted to bring a small cheese tray back to the office so her co-workers could also sample the cheeses she has enjoyed from The Mouse Trap.

I eavesdropped as Alex explained the various cheeses in the case. “The variety will continually rotate” she said. “Currently we have cheeses from France, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Vermont, and, of course, Wisconsin!” Darlene passed up the Humbolt Fog from Northern California and the pungent Epoisses from France for a special blue cheese from Switzerland, a raw goat’s milk cheese from the Chimacum Valley in Washington, and a Gouda from the Netherlands.

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Alex describes the selection of cheeses currently in the cold case at The Mouse Trap in downtown Olympia.

Alex offered samples as she always does, but Darlene knew the quality. “I like the fact that Alex will listen carefully to my needs, cut just the amount I want, and she always wraps it in special paper. I know the cheese I buy here will not be suffocated by hours spent on the shelf in tight plastic wrapping,” she said.

Checking out the wines while he was waiting to talk to Alex, Mike Carlson commented on the nice variety. The rack included selections from wineries in Argentina, France, Oregon, Washington and California. When Alex was free, she told him, “I am trying to work with growers from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to stock some of my favorite varieties from that region.”

Mike explained he was on a mission from his wife who was planning a fundraiser and wondered about the feasibility of buying a cheese tray from The Mouse Trap rather than from a big box store. “We like to support local businesses,” Mike said as he took Alex’s business card, and added, “My wife will be calling you.”

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Mike Carlson checks out the variety of wines Alex has selected for The Mouse Trap.

The vision for The Mouse Trap came from shops Alex had known in the Provencal region of France where her father lives. She has long thought Olympia needed such a shop. “It is so much fun to provide everything I could never find in Olympia,” she said and pointed out all accessories she carries from Bosca, a quality Dutch company.

Soon I realized as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t stay trapped forever, so I asked about upcoming events. A Valentine pairing of chocolates, cheeses and wines is in the planning stages. Until I heard pairing, I hadn’t previously noticed the chocolate truffles from the Briar Rose Creamy in Oregon in the case.

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Alex Gouirant and her sister share a few smiles as her sister prepares to return to France.

Just a warning, don’t enter The Mouse Trap with diet resolutions in mind. Alex’s cheeses and chocolates changed a few of mine!

The Mouse Trap
408 Washington Street SE in downtown Olympia
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
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