These Local Businesses Have Cheese (and Flowers and Pizza), Will Travel

Harbor Cheese owner Jessica Affatato delivers a cheese plate in Port Washington.

When we think of travel—of what it means, genuinely, to explore places outside of the comfort of home—we think mostly of leisure, of Instagram-filtered beach shots and candlelit dinners in some foreign destination and cobblestoned European streets. Perhaps travel is a less complex concept, though. Perhaps why we go and how we get where we’re going is more integrative. What if your very livelihood depended on your ability to be anywhere but here? 

In 2017, when Jessica Affatato founded the Long Island–based mobile business Harbor Cheese & Provisions, she envisioned a business model rooted in the flexibility of travel. The business hosts private events, provides cheese education and cheesemaking classes, curated platters and accompaniments, and cheese to hungry patrons. Working with 35 small farms, dairies and New York and Connecticut creameries, she promotes a steadily rotating roster of local cheeses and dairy products. Now, she says, she is able to reach a wider demographic than she would if she were merely stationed in one place. 

“I wanted to get back into food, but I didn’t want to work in restaurants,” says Affatato of her humble beginnings. She had been a film major in college, which, she emphasized, made her a “very good waitress.” She moved on to work in the food industry in Port Washington, eventually landing in Manhattan’s luxury hotel, the Peninsula. Hurricane Sandy hit, and she became a mother, and both life events brought her back to Long Island. In reimagining her career trajectory, she found that there were benefits to running a business that lacked the confines of a physical storefront. “There’s the very practical aspect of not having to pay for a brick-and-mortar,” Affatato says. There is also the very practical aspect of designing a work environment that suits an individual’s lifestyle. “I’m not beholden to the expectations of a boss. So my ability to go back to work [after childbirth] is based on how I decide my ability to go back to work is.” 

Just one example of what Harbor Cheese delivers: Cheese boards that are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

In the case of the traveling vendor, the practicality of lifestyle and cost can open doors to a broader market, as well as a broader perspective. Jaclyn Rutigliano founded Hometown Flower Co. with her husband, Marc Iervolino, this year. “I love the travel connection,” she says of her mobile business, which she defines as a “reimagined flower shop.” Rutigliano delivers fresh and locally grown flowers to the floral enthusiasts of Long Island. “[M]y day job is travel marketing,” she says. “I think the fluidity of our location is liberating. It forces us to explore Long Island more than we would.”

Rutigliano’s passion for flowers runs in her blood. Her grandparents owned a flower shop in Queens, which her parents subsequently parlayed into a special events and wedding business. Rutigliano and her husband originally intended to open a general store, in which flowers would be prominently featured, but their goals changed with the times. In a mobile business, she says, a storefront need not be stocked with fresh flowers that will inevitably die. “We buy what we need, and that works really well with partnering with local farmers. They’re not mass-producing flowers.” 

Hometown Flower Co. delivers fresh, Long Island-grown flowers.

For Terry McGuire, owner of the traveling pizza truck Homeslice Pizza, the attraction of working on the road is the freedom it provides. “It’s nice to be outside,” he says. “It’s never boring. It always changes.” For McGuire, whose diverse résumé includes stints bartending as well as working on an overseas aircraft, a lack of predictability equals career excitement. He fashioned his pizza trailer—a 50-inch diameter wood-fired pizza oven on a military trailer with 42-inch tires—himself. The truck, and McGuire, is completely mobile, able to get anywhere, including the beach. 

Perhaps most notably, McGuire regards his self-designed truck and concept as the ultimate expression of his personal creativity. “It’s not something that somebody else built. It’s totally an extension of me,” he says. “Every light is placed because I put it there. It’s like putting a little piece of myself out there.” That creativity, for Jessica Affatato, translates to a deepened understanding of—and appreciation for—her demographic. “I have much more intimate insight into people’s lives,” she says of her business. 

Terry McGuire, owner of the traveling pizza truck Homeslice Pizza, delivers pizza in his self-designed truck. • Photo courtesy of Homeslice Pizza

And what beauty—what experience of place—presents itself on the road? Jessica Affatato recalled an afternoon in Southold where she was hosting a cheese plate event. “I was standing there, selling cheese to people, making cheese plates on the fly, and I was like: ‘This is the most beautiful, bucolic place, and I wouldn’t have had that experience if I hadn’t started this. There would be no other avenue for me to be standing under that beautiful tree.’” In Jaclyn Rutigliano’s case, working on the road ignited an unexpected relationship with the town of Bay Shore. Her business sent her to Main Street, where she had not been in years. There, she met a number of people who joined her floral subscription program for consistent flower delivery. “I discovered a love of Bay Shore,” she says. 

This is what travel brings. It lights in us new passion for both the undiscovered and the already discovered. It makes the world larger, rather than smaller. The unintended, lovely consequence of taking a job on the road is the untold beauty that reveals itself. A tree can be surprising, as can a town in central Long Island. Beauty can be as close and accessible as the beach next door. 

“As soon as I get out that door and get to the place, that’s when it happens,” Terry McGuire says. “It” is the unquantifiable magic, the joy both of job and place. The view McGuire takes of his fluid lifestyle speaks to well-heeled travelers everywhere. “I’m creating beautiful little scenes with fire and ovens and music everywhere I go. I built [the truck] so that it can be a little, beautiful thing wherever it goes. I’m building a centerpiece in different places. I blend seamlessly in different environments.” Those gripped by wanderlust can no doubt relate.