In 2004, Ken Miller and Greg O'Neill turned their passion for rustic European fare into a thriving business. Nate talks with Ken and Greg, co-owners of Chicago-based Pastoral, about their authentic neighborhood cheese shop and its European country décor.
Having lived, traveled and dined extensively throughout Europe, Ken and Greg say they saw a real gap in the market back in the United States for quality, artisanal foods. "No pun intended, but people were starving for it," Ken says. While neither was a cheese expert or wine connoisseur, the couple felt their years of experience in the corporate world were all they needed to pursue their dream.
Soon they were able to open their first storefront and began offering local Chicago residents all the foods they had grown to love in Europe—artisanal cheeses, freshly baked breads and select wines, along with charcuterie and olives. Customers flocked to their small shop, which Ken and Greg say was a welcome alternative to big-box grocers and giant supermarket chains.
To complement Pastoral's European food offerings, Ken and Greg set out to create a space that was reminiscent of places such as Sonoma, Tuscany and Provence. They decorated the shop's interior with antique furniture, handcrafted millwork, a tin ceiling, wood floors and soapstone countertops. "For us it was really important that the whole environment felt comfortable, inviting," Greg says. "We wanted sort of a 'rubbing elbows' type of atmosphere like you get in the small shops in Europe."