Owner of Glen Ellyn cheese shop has 'magic touch'
For months, the corner building was shrouded beneath scaffolding and tarps.
When the curtains lifted and her new business finally opened, Jill Foucré did something unexpected for a hostess: She left the party.
Sometimes you need a look from the outside, a quiet moment to soak it all in. So Foucré walked across the street that night and studied the exterior of Marché, French for "market."
"It was so bright and sparkly and alive-looking and I just loved it," Foucré said. "It brought tears to my eyes. It really did. It made me so happy."
After about eight months of gutting and renovating the interior of a 100-year-old building, Marché is exactly how Foucré imagined it: cozy, a little edgier than her flagship cooking school and store and a dressed-up northern gateway in downtown Glen Ellyn. Marcel's Culinary Experience, named after her grandfather, and Marché, a gourmet cheese shop, are steps apart on Main Street.
"I love the way it's different from Marcel's, and it feels different in here," Foucré said. "Everything from the finishes to the colors to the textures to the music -- everything is different in here, and I like that."
What is the same is Foucré's attention to detail.
"I'm a little bit of a fretter when it comes to all the little things because I feel like if you take care of all the little things, the big things will come," she said. "There's no sense in worrying about whether, 'Oh my gosh are we going to close some day? Are people going to stop shopping here?' That's sort of a big thing I can't control.
"What I can control is do we have fabulous products? Do we have knowledgeable staff? Do we have good communication? ... If we take care of all that stuff, in my mind, the big stuff will work itself out."
After spending about $550,000 on the purchase and remodel, the brick building -- painted indigo blue -- is now easy to spot and smell.
"Where aged and stinky is a good thing," reads a sign inside.
Foodies have their pick of 90 to 100 varieties, about half European, the other half American and all cut-to-order. Here, cheeses are treated like fine wine and graded by flavor, aroma and texture. In other words, Foucré wants customers to spend time with their cheese.
With that in mind, the gold lighting is soft and the music (Zooey Deschanel on Tuesday afternoon), relaxed.
"She has some sort of magic touch," General Manager Daniel Sirko said of Foucré.
If you hear Gruyère and feel as clueless as Mrs. O'Leary's cow, cheesemongers explain the flavors and suggest pairings with wine -- two dozen bottles sit in a black cabinet -- and craft beer.
"We know all our cheeses really well," Sirko said. "We take care of them, and we always encourage people to taste something before they buy it."
The animal, the environment, even the time of milking affect the taste, Foucré said. Through her staff, she discovered a new favorite, Ossau-Iraty, a salty cheese made from the milk of sheep who graze in "mountain pastures."
"It's a crowd pleaser," Sirko said.
The "gangbuster" items are the party cheese boards, a "beautiful display" of cheeses, baguette, olives, spreads or meats on a cherry wood board, Foucré said. Or try the cheese plate of the day ($10 to $14).
"I'm learning how to be a better taster, how to have a better palette," she said.
Like the popular cooking school at Marcel's, Foucré shares what she learns with classes at Marché.
"I appreciate the support of the community," she said. "I really do. We are embraced by the community, and that means a lot to me."