At Chicago bottle shop, all-day eatery and market All Together Now (ATN), the work hasn’t stopped since March. Owner Erin Carlman Weber, general manager Jeremy Patenaude and chef Abigail Zielke have had to pivot regular operations to find ways to connect with their customers—and keep the lights on.
Since it opened in December 2018, All Together Now, previously called Brothers & Sisters, has been a Ukranian Village neighborhood staple. Before the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual to see ATN bustling every night of the week with people meeting for dinner, grabbing happy hour drinks, or stopping by to pick up bottles of wine and cheese on their way home.
Once the stay at home order was established in Illinois on March 21, the team quickly moved to a takeout format and encouraged customers to use an online platform to order wine, cheese and entrees.
“We quickly tried to translate what we were bringing people in store, in the restaurant and in the shop,” says Weber. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘How can we recreate an experience in a way that feels safe and fun, but still give them a slice of normalcy?’”
“If we’re going to ask our team to continue working during the pandemic, we needed to offer them health coverage. Being able to do that also challenged us to reorder our values as a business.”—Erin Carlman Weber, owner, All Together Now
For Weber, it was also important to ensure that the ATN staff felt safe and secure during such an uncertain time.
“We started offering health benefits to our staff during this time, because it obviously is always precarious to work in the service industry, and coming to work during a global health crisis all of a sudden got a lot scarier,” she says.
“We figured, if we’re going to ask our team to continue working during the pandemic, we needed to offer them health coverage. Being able to do that also challenged us to reorder our values as a business.”
While certain coronavirus-related restrictions have eased since March, anyone entering an establishment in Illinois must wear a mask.
ATN customers can still place orders online and receive them via local delivery service, or they can stop by the restaurant and place orders via the takeout window—a lucky design decision, Weber says.
“We initially installed the window with a counter and stool below it and said we would open it to let the warm breezes in when it’s nice,” she says. “I never imagined that it would be our sole point of contact with our guests during a pandemic.”
It’s popular among locals, too.
“The takeaway window is brilliant, it adds an aspect of human interaction while keeping everybody safe,” says longtime ATN customer and East Village resident Max Mearsheimer. “You can chat about the wine, or just grab your meat and cheese and go.”
General manager Jeremy Patenaude is also ATN’s wine buyer. He’s been busy not only managing the establishment, but ensuring that the shelves are stocked with the sorts of bottles people want to buy during the pandemic.
“With so much uncertainty, I immediately put a hold on the $500 cases of wine. I figured people would still want a good glass of wine, but we’re kind of looking for more like a $20 bottle as opposed to a $40 bottle,” says Patenaude. “So, it was a good challenge to look for things that maybe weren’t right on my radar, and increase the selection that’s right at the $20 sweet spot.”
It’s a welcome perspective from a place many Chicagoans look to for wine education.
“I think the hype around natural wine has brought in a ton of new wine drinkers, and ATN has done a great job creating a spot that would appeal to folks just getting into wine, or long-time fans,” says Humboldt Park resident Reid Draper. “You could go in and get a traditional-tasting Burgundy, or an orange wine that tastes like kombucha.”
At the height of the pandemic, chef Abigail Zielke’s goal was to offer food as a comfort for the community in such a stressful time.
“Even before the pandemic, going into the second year of the business, I made a goal to incorporate more local chefs and local producers into our menu,” says Zielke. “As the seasons change, I’m excited to incorporate Midwest produce like squash and sweet potato, when its peak harvest time.”
Weber, Patenaude and Ziekle all express gratitude to one another, and credit the establishment’s ongoing success to their collective ability to be open, flexible and creative.
“ATN has always been an incredibly welcoming environment full of good people and good vibes,” says Mearsheimer. “We’ve only been getting those vibes to-go recently, but I’m fairly certain once we can go back inside, ATN will be the same wonderful place it was before. I’m certainly looking forward to that.”
Wine Enthusiast is spotlighting the bars, bottle shops and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and what they’re doing to weather the crisis. Find more at Business of Bars.