Specialty Food Magazine

MAY-JUN 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 73 of 103

vnsourmtrk W Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine ith three locations in the Windy City and a booming Artisan Producer Festival at Chicago's French Market, this 8-year-old business has grown tenfold since opening in 2004. For its second food festival in April 2012, the cheese shop hosted 70 producers and 8,000 food lovers from around the world. Those who attended the festival or have stopped by the store fall in love with Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine's carefully edited selection of artisanal foods, including more than 150 cheeses. History…After years of traveling and living abroad, Greg O'Neill and Ken Miller came back to Chicago to discover a scarcity of market shopping: small, experience-oriented shops where items were cut to order. "We loved to picnic, so we'd try to pull together picnics in our first summer back," says O'Neill. "We thought we could do better. We did market research and realized there was a lot of interest." After consulting with experts in the field and attending a Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, the self-described corporate refugees took the plunge and opened a 382-square-foot store in 2004. Since then, they have expanded with two more stores, one in downtown Chicago and another in Chicago's French Market. Points of Distinction…Since opening, Pastoral has expand- ed but has not wavered from its initial concept: small-producer goods of high quality sold cut-to-order with exemplary service and education. O'Neill describes this education as the "T.L.C." approach: tasting, learning and converting shoppers to the Pastoral style. More than 150 cheeses are on offer; fresh chevres and mozzarellas sell best in the summer, while peak sales in winter go to alpine-style cheeses such as Comté and cloth-bound cheddars. "We focused on categories [with] only a few degrees of separa- tion from cheese," such as charcuterie, olives and breads, O'Neill explains. "We are primarily a cheese shop, but we've grown into other things. We are a cheese and wine shop, not a wine and cheese shop." If they had double the space, he adds, the market would only delve deeper into the existing categories, rather than expand to a wider grocery store selection. O'Neill notes that Pastoral's employees have diverse back- grounds and are as passionate about food as the owners. "If you have an engaged and enthusiastic staff it becomes infectious, and that's how you create customer advocates," he says. "We want novices to walk out as delighted as aficionados." How It Keeps Innovating…Pastoral has a new e-com- merce website that is gaining an increasing number of visitors, as well as a quickly growing cheese business for foodservice (selling to more than 60 U.S. restaurants). In its downtown location, Pastoral began offering sandwiches to bring in store traffic during low times; this strategy has attracted a whole new crowd of customers. "We take advantage of the lunch crowd by bringing in cheese/wine makers who do tastings while people wait for sandwiches," explains O'Neill, who has a background in corporate marketing. "We convert sand- wich customers who come back for cheese, wine, bread and beer." The owners recently opened a 4,000-square-foot commissary, with a walk-in and commercial kitchen, where they can prepare food, such as sandwiches and cheese plates, to sell in Pastoral shops or provide for local Intelligentsia coffee shops.—D.M. Year Opened: 2004 (Lakeview); 2007 (Loop district); 2010 (French Market) Type of Business: Specialty food store (cheese, wine & accompaniments) with three locations Outstanding Features: Cut-to-order, service and education focus Contact: pastoralartisan.com Greg O'Neill MAY/JUNE 2012 67

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