Elizabeth Valoma, The Cheese Board co-founder, dies at 91

The Cheese Board's remaining founder has died.

Elizabeth Valoma, who co-founded The Cheese Board in Berkeley with former husband Sahag Avedisian in 1967, passed away at the age of 91, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another.)

On Friday, Cheese Board Pizza shared an image on Twitter of the handwritten tribute to Valoma, which included photographs of the co-founder throughout the years.

"Elizabeth's passing is an enormous loss to all those whose lives she touched with her larger than-life heart," Cheese Board Pizza wrote. "She founded the Cheeseboard 54 years ago, creating a business that embodies the spirit of community, family, and collective ownership. Her generous spirit will remain in our hearts always."

When Valoma and Avedisian first opened The Cheese Board, it's said that they invested a few hundred dollars on high-quality cheeses, according to a 2011 report by Berkeleyside. It was a rough start as the couple earned less than a hundred dollars in sales on its opening day. But as the American palate adjusted with the farm to fork movement, things changed for the better.

Just four years after The Cheese Board opened, Valoma and Avedisian wanted to modify the way the store operated as a means to "run a democratic shop," Berkeleyside wrote. So, in 1971 they sold the business to their employees and established a cooperative that continues today. Later, Cheese Board Pizza opened next door where it's been slinging pizza pies since 1985.

Avedisian, who died in 2007, left the collective many years before his passing, but Valoma continued to work at The Cheese Board through her 80s where she did two shifts a week, according to Berkeleyside. The cause of death is unclear. SFGATE reached out to The Cheese Board for comment and will update the story if we hear back.

The Cheese Board is located at 1504 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.

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