Local: Ali Cohane

This thirty-four-year-old Illinois native is one-half of the power couple behind Persephone Bakery Boulangerie & Cafe and Picnic cafe and coffee shop.

Ali Cohane

Interview by Dina Mishev
Photograph by Ryan Dorgan

Ali Cohane got degrees in art history and studio art her first time around in college. She later went back to earn a degree in graphic design. Today, the thirty-four-year-old Illinois native is one-half of the power couple behind Persephone Bakery Boulangerie & Cafe and Picnic cafe and coffee shop. (The other half is her husband, Le Cordon Bleu-trained Kevin Cohane.) Persephone Bakery opened as a wholesale-only operation in 2011. Persephone Cafe opened one block from the Town Square in 2013. Picnic opened in West Jackson in 2015. While Kevin has all the baking covered—the cafes serve everything from traditional French viennoiseries to the valley’s best brownies and chocolate chip cookies—Ali runs the physical spaces and also gets much of the credit for each cafe’s look. It’s also Ali who curates the assortment of kitcheny/homey products that each cafe sells. These products range from beautifully photographed food books to Danish ceramic coffee mugs.

Q: Would you say you have a sweet tooth?
A: I could live on sweets. It’s a problem.

Q: How do you describe your personal aesthetic?
A: I have been struggling so much with this as we build our new website. It’s simply what I find beautiful. I am drawn to the gorgeous simplicity of Danish design, and its exquisite functionality, while being mesmerized by the patina of a vintage silver pendant.

Q: Do you miss graphic design?
A: I miss it a lot. But I find creative outlets here. I spend hours—days—sourcing products and looking at what other companies are doing. And we’re redesigning the menu, and our bread bags—that’s creative.

Q: What about the design of both cafes?
A: I love interior design and am always designing spaces. Even now, when we don’t have any new projects, I’m still planning for one. I just can’t help it. I have Pinterest boards for unknown projects. (Follow Ali at Persephone Cafe.)

Q: Was moving to Paris with Kevin a hard choice for you?
A: Not at all. Easiest and best decision of my life.

Q: What was your life like in Paris?
A: Each day I spent about six hours just walking, so I really learned the city. We would buy a bottle of cheap wine, a baguette, some cheese and sit by the Seine as the sun set. It was really kind of magical. It’s why I haven’t been able to go back.

Q: Are you allowed a favorite between Picnic and Persephone?
A: I go through phases. They have such different vibes. But if I had to pick a space, Picnic’s is more my personal style.

Q: When you guys founded the wholesale bakery, was there a master plan that included cafes?
A: There was not a grand vision. We’ve learned opportunities in Jackson cannot be forced. The opportunity to take the building in town was totally random. And Picnic happened because I sat next to [the property’s owner] on a chairlift. We have things we would like to do to grow the business, but it is really about seeing what kind of natural opportunities flow to us.

Q: Persephone and Picnic are both slammed in the summer. What do you do to relax?
A: We bought a crappy, 1990 speedboat. We take it out on Jackson Lake.

Q: Please tell me it’s named for some baked good?
A: Because there was no room to put a name on the back, the guy we bought it from had painted over the brand name to make room for one. We kept his name, Hewitt’s Escapé. With the accent over the “e.” Now it’s our ess-ca-pay.


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