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Meet Gayle Voss of Gayle’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gayle Voss.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I had a bookkeeping business out of my home and one of my clients, Brian Gerloff, was a bovine veterinarian. He started a cheese company to help sustain a few 100-year-old dairy farms and started by selling the cheese at farmers markets. I filled in once in a while at the farmer’s markets and loved it. When he sold the veterinary practice I asked if I could be his cheese sales rep and do more farmers markets in Chicago. I delivered cheese to restaurants/small boutique grocers from Chicago to Rockford besides doing 4 markets a week in the summer.

When I was at the Green City Market I thought that since there was fresh bread right next to me (Bennison’s Bakery of Evanston), and fresh butter (Nordic Creamery of Westby, WI), on the other side of the market and I did have the best cheese for melting so maybe I should make grilled cheese. I source my ingredients from other farmers market vendors and I asked the chefs at the restaurants I was delivering cheese to (that were “green”, sourcing their ingredients locally as well), to make a topping for my sandwiches. Several did and I have named the sandwich after their restaurants.

The Southport is named after Southport Grocery and Cafe in Chicago, they make the smoked onion marmalade. The Abreo is named after Abreo in Rockford, they make the bacon onion jam. The Duke is named after Duke’s Alehouse in Crystal Lake, they make the beer mustard. The Jake is named after my pork vendor, Jake’s Country Meats in Cassopolis, MI. The River Valley is named after River Valley Ranch, Burlington, WI, they supply the fresh mushrooms. I support over 23 other small businesses in my restaurant also using locally made soda, cookies, chips, tea and more.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have taken my time through the whole process which helped make it a smoother road but not necessarily smooth. This all started 10 years ago and I will be celebrating my storefront 2 year anniversary in February. I still do 4 outdoor farmers markets from May through October (Green City Market on Wednesday and Saturday), SOAR Market at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Tuesday) and Daley Plaza farmers market (Thursday). I do the Green City Indoor market from November through April which is held inside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on scheduled Saturdays.

I think the struggles initially were how hard I worked getting ready for the markets and the long days with little/no help. I love what I do, mostly the interaction with my customers, and love seeing their faces when they bite into their sandwich. The real challenge, in any business, is finding employees who take pride in who they work for and what they have done to make it happen. I have found several priceless employees but it has taken some time. I want to offer more to them while being able to enjoy the success myself.

Please tell us about Gayle’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese.
I am known for my fresh/locally sourced concept since I did many years at the farmers market before opening my storefront. I had a great customer base from the markets which helped with the success of the restaurant. I am most proud of the fact that I support so many other small businesses. The farmers and small business owners need to be supported.

There are so many amazing products in and around the city of Chicago and going to markets to see, meet and taste their products is a huge opportunity to have something you might not see anywhere else, including my grilled cheese. There are plenty of other grilled cheese places out there but none do what I do. I take pride in what I offer.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
There is no looking back. What I have learned is that starting small and working really hard will get you where you want to go. I have had amazing support from my husband, we both have worked very hard. I was still running my bookkeeping business for the first 5 years that I was doing the farmers markets and delivering cheese.

It was crazy busy but I needed to make ends meet, we had 3 daughters going to college. I did everything to run the business (paperwork/payroll) myself while using my family as my sounding board and learned a lot along the way. Trial and error truly are in play at all times, still. If I knew more about the restaurant business that certainly would have helped.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 108 N, State Street (inside Block 37) Chicago, IL 60602
  • Website: www.gaylesbestever.com
  • Phone: 312-285-2202
  • Email: gaylesbestever@gmail.com

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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