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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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06.22.07

Provenance: The art of marketing

Bites: News and Miscellany


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The cheese selection at Provenance

Back in February 2006, Tracy Kellner opened the doors of Provenance Food and Wine, her tiny grocery store in Logan Square. The name – “place or source of origin” — had a double meaning for Kellner. First, she envisioned the shop as a new start and beginning for herself. After spending some seven years working for a big corporation, what she really wanted to do was find a way to make a living out of her love for cooking. Previously, Kellner has worked in restaurants for nine years and was itching to put her food knowledge to good use. Second, “provenance” is also a term often associated with wine, another subject close to Kellner’s heart. After getting frustrated with not being able to find a store in her Logan Square hood to buy ingredients for a home-cooked meal to satisfy her foodie taste buds, Kellner had a light-bulb moment and the plans for Provenance started to form.

I first met Kellner back in January 2006, as she stood in a half-empty store, surrounded by boxes and yet-to-be-filled shelves. She was stressed about upcoming license inspections and whether or not the store would be ready for its proposed opening date, but she also was hopeful and excited about her vision for Provenance. She spoke of featuring a selection of affordable Old and New World wines, mostly from boutique vintners, that she would taste and handpick herself. She talked about the local vendors she would feature, including baked goods from Bleeding Heart Bakery, bread from Red Hen Bread and chocolates from Vosges. Organic and natural products would be in abundance, as well as artisan cheeses, ready-made sauces, pastas, small-batch beers, gourmet gelato, and premium olive oils and vinegars. She pointed to the large wood table she hoped would be the centerpiece for weekly wine and food tastings. And most of all, Kellner talked about the personalized service the store would offer, from taking requests for new products to answering questions about how to use an ingredient to free delivery.

Kellner’s vision is now in full swing. Not only are there free weekly Saturday afternoon wine tastings, but local vendors often come in with samples of their goods (TipsyCake, Busby Bakes, Das Caramels and Eat Green Foods/Sunday Dinner Club have all stopped by). There’s a wine club, a monthly newsletter and cooking classes, too, often led by Chef Stef, Provenance’s resident culinary expert (pictured below).

While Kellner seems to have fulfilled all of the store’s goals that she first expressed to me a year-or-so ago, that doesn’t mean she’s resting on her laurels. Look for Kellner to take over Lincoln Square gourmet shop Bouffe in July when its current owner moves to NYC. Kellner says expect to see all the high-quality fresh cheeses the store has become known for, grocery items similar to Provenance and – fingers crossed – wine and beer.

Provenance, 2528 N. California Ave., 773-384-0699; Website

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