Starting a Food and Wine Retailer

Interview with Tracy Kellner, Founder of Provenance Food & Wine

Tracy Kellner has two beautiful Wine and Food shops in the trendiest neighborhoods of Chicago's north side.

Tracy Kellner opened her first shop in 2006 after leaving her corporate career behind.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

Provenance Food & Wine is a retail specialty food & wine shop. The shop focuses on small-batch, hand-crafted foods, cheeses, wines, beers & spirits.

How did you come up with your business idea?

I lived in an "up and coming" neighborhood in Chicago and lamented that fact that I needed to leave the neighborhood to get good cheese, wine or bread.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

I worked for a legal research company called CT Corporation, managing a team of 10 people and a $3M territory. This is my first business.

Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?

I would suggest hiring an accountant. He can help you plan your record keeping & show you how to interpret a P&L and balance sheet. I would also hire an Attorney which is especially crucial if obtaining a liquor license. Finally I would find a good banker. She can help you obtain a line of credit & get your accounts set up. I would highly recommend these, but especially an accountant. In the long run, getting your accountant involved early can save you a lot of money.

Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?

Absolutely. Getting rid of our large garbage dumpster in exchange for a recycle bin and smaller dumpster cost me less money – the majority of our waste is recyclable cardboard and we only have to pay for pickup 2x/month instead of 1x/week now! We also try to carry as many local products as we can. Our customers appreciate local businesses and understand the value of eating locally, so carrying locally-made products and working with the producers to gain exposure & awareness has increased our business. We use corn-based compostable deli containers, which are the same price as the petroleum-based containers!

Have you outsourced any portion of your business?

I outsourced payroll and bookkeeping. I can be assured that my payroll tax filings with be filed correctly and on time and it's worth the $150 or so a month I pay for the extra time to focus on what I'm good at!

Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?

Word of mouth has been great, either from friends or other business owners. Business owners take such pride in their companies, so it really means a lot when another entrepreneur recommends someone.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Focus on service and quality; do as many creative things as you can to attract people to your business; network & collaborate always!

Thank you Tracy for taking time out of your busy schedule to offer up advice to the entrepreneurs at

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