ONEIDA — Abbey Woodcock proved that determination empowered by community drive can lead not only to great recognition but also great personal satisfaction, from her time in the Oneida class in 2003 to today, perhaps one of her most defining adventures , as the owner of the city’s first and only specialty cheese and snack shop.
A Durhamville native, he is among the ambitious go-getters and creative thinkers recognized in this year’s Central New York Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Awards. As the owner of two local businesses, Woodcock can look back on how she got to where she is today and see that her love for her family and community helped guide the way.
The life of the 37-year-old began with her family on a dairy farm and is still surrounded by people who are related by blood and love through shared experiences.
Her cheese shop, Callee 1945, was named after her grandparents, and the pictures on the wall pay homage to other family members. Her parents and three siblings supported her from the start and everyone cheered her on when she accepted her award. “I couldn’t have done any of this without her,” she remarked. Her husband and business partner KC Baney was also an important part of her success. She is also the mother of two teenagers.
Woodcock has stayed true to her local roots, having worked for local newspapers in high school and out of college and later opening her first business, Oneida Freelance Co-op. She served on the local planning committee for the Oneida Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), where she provided valuable internal feedback and input to help shape the city’s future.
Her professional career, first in journalism and then in marketing, has always been inspiring, but little did she know there was another path that could combine her many talents and values with one of her greatest loves: cheese.
“Food wasn’t a big thing in my family,” Woodcock recalls of her childhood. Other experiences in her life have drawn her to food — not just for its flavor and complexity, but for the way it “can be an act of love,” Woodcock said.
“When I went to college, I realized that nobody could cook. And I kind of knew how to cook. And every Saturday I would cook French toast in the dorm’s communal kitchen…to bring everyone together and feel at home.”
Her personal interest in food eventually focused on cheese, “because cheese is amazing,” she laughed. She watched YouTube videos about it, read about it and of course tried it. Finally, she enthusiastically explained to her friends the contents of a cheese platter.
She realized, “I could do this any day.”
As she delved deeper into the cheese industry, she began to question whether a career in this field was even possible for her. She decided to host a pop-up cheese sale from her Freelance Co-op store in 2020.
“There had to be other people like me who loved good food and loved trying new things. So we kind of made the pop-up as an experiment. … [We] got a banner from FedEx that just said ‘cheese sale today’, put it up in the street and we killed it. That first weekend we were shocked at how much business we did.”
She continued, “I realized that there was simply nothing else that offered a real cheesemonger’s experience like this. … That’s what people want. They want to come in. They want to try things. You want something special. It’s really comparable to wine,” she muses. Fast forward, and Callee 1945 has been open for a little over a year.
Offering a friendly connection over delicious specialties has brought great joy to Woodcock and her clientele. Guests can sample a variety of cheeses or order a custom willow board for an elevated guest experience.
Woodcock is feeling particularly inspired now that the holiday season has arrived, along with the 40 Under 40 hype that goes with it.
However, inspiration is only part of the game. Behind every small business is an owner or two, wearing many hats and fighting to keep the lights on.
Woodcock echoed those realities in a candid Facebook post she made in August to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her business in September. “I wanted to post this because I think people have this idea that if you own a business you kind of have to have tons of money and tons of success, and it’s really the opposite. In terms of financial success, I’ve been far more successful as a marketer than as a cheese shop owner. Luckily, that’s really not how I measure it,” she said.
Despite many challenges and uncertainties, Woodcock said she’s not going anywhere. She is not only thinking about the future of her shop with excitement, but also about Oneida and sees great potential.
“This community just means a lot to me,” she said.