It’s the largest cheese selection north of Boston and on Jan. 15 it will be gone. The owner of K. Horton Specialty Foods in the Public Market House announced on New Year’s Day she is closing shop.
“Some people are bordering on being mad at me, but most are sad,” said Kris Horton, who is set to retire after 18 years as Portland’s gourmet food retailer. “No one wanted to carry on my shop, so it’s a good time.”
Carrying up to 200 cheeses (many from Maine), jams, jellies, produce and smoked fish, K. Horton is a marketplace in itself. Located on the first floor of the two-story Monument Square food hall, Horton and her trove of local and European goods and meals to go, is a welcoming, stable presence.
“This leaves a big hole in the whole lunchtime scene,” said Melissa Spoerl, a downtown worker who stopped in to say good bye. “Nobody knows cheese like K. Horton.”
And nobody knows the history of this market, which initially opened with fanfare a block away in 1998, like Horton. When the Portland Public Market, which was ahead of its time, closed in 2006, Horton and several tenants relocated to a new space in a former Army Navy surplus shop. The fromage monger rolled her cheese case up to the more condensed Monument Square market house more than 10 years ago.
“It made sense. There was always a farmers market here and this space has been perfect,” said Horton, noting the grainy photos upstairs of a thriving public marketplace in the square in the mid-1800s.
Horton, who is also president of the market, has helped 120 food companies launch. In the basement is a kitchen incubator space that entrepreneurs can rent by the hour. The shared commercial kitchen has been central in helping Portland’s food scene flourish. Local Sprouts Cooperative on Congress Street is one of many success stories to start here. “It’s time for me to pass the wand,” she said.
The owners of Kamasouptra will take over the management of the market. Horton said they plan to upgrade the two-story food court and add more tenants.
In the meantime, the apron-clad Horton will continue to be the positive, upbeat presence until she sells her last hunk of gouda.
“I would appreciate seeing all my awesome customers in the next two weeks,” said Horton. “The lights are turned off on Jan. 15.”
Everything is 25 percent off and cash only until then.
K. Horton Specialty Foods, 28 Monument Way, Portland.