The Swedish Bakery
5348 N. Clark St, Chicago Il 60640
After being in business for 88 years, this week The Swedish Bakery announced on Facebook that they will close forever at the end of the business February 28th. According to a number of reports, this is the last Swedish Bakery in the city.
Though I do enjoy the whole “foodie experience” when dining, I do appreciate the authenticity and originality of small businesses. Andersonville historically is a Swedish neighborhood, but in recent years, the Swedish shops had become fewer. Yet, the area had pride with the number of small businesses it showcased. Some big chains are found there, such as Starbucks, Potbelly and Giordanos (which took up the former Ann Sather’s space). The loss of yet another neighborhood gem is devastating.
What makes it so sad for me is for a more personal reason: my first job was at The Swedish Bakery and I was there from 17 years old until about 22 or 23. I have fond memories from my experience there, and I felt that a lot of my work etiquette and ethic stemmed from my training with them.
Even though it was a place of business, it felt like I was part of a family, not just with my coworkers, but also with the owners. Some of the neighboring businesses would order from the bakery, and we would get to know them as well.
Out of curiosity, I had stopped by the store on Saturday. They were on the D series of paper numbers and I had F60 (at least a 2 to 3-hour wait, I was told). I came in at 2pm, and I did have a few hours before my next meet-up. While waiting, I took in the atmosphere and the smells. I’ve seen/lived through the Christmas rush here, but with the crowd, it seemed like more. However, it was calm within the crowd and with the employees too. Though, at the time, it seemed like only two workers were handling the front. The numbers seemed to advance at a rate of one number in 20 minutes. I wasn’t sure if they had people designated for the phones (on Facebook, it seemed that they were handling a lot of calls), or if people were at lunch, or both. Yet, the crowd seemed calm (phew!)
Then again, I can be a very patient person.
I saw one guy there, who used to come in every morning. I asked him if he still comes in for his morning sweet roll. He remembered me! He said that he had moved, and doesn’t come by as often anymore. We talked about the news reports of their closing, the Stanton family, and the other regular employees.
Finally, there were more employees to handle the floor. The numbers started to advance at, what seemed like, a record pace. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay any longer. I do plan on coming back at least two more times.
In order to survive their rush, I do have a few tips:
1. Follow them on Facebook, if you haven’t already. They post updates on ordering limits and other information on the availability of items.
2. At the moment, they are asking a 2 to 3 day advance notice on orders with limitations on order quantities (again, refer to 1).
3. They have two different number systems: paper or plastic numbers. If you are walking in, you take a PAPER number. If you made an order (bakery and/or cake) and you paid for part of it (ie 50% balance) and you still have to pay the rest (ie the other 50%) you take a PAPER number. If you made an order (bakery and/or cake), paid for it in full before the pick up date, you would take a PLASTIC number. If anything, double check with the employee handling your order.
That being said, it would be best to order your items and paying for them ahead of time, which is what I plan to do.
UPDATE: They have stopped taking orders of any kind except for King’s Cake and paczkis (2-15-17)
Some of the items to try include: Marzipan Princess Torte, Fruit Glaze Cake, Cardamom Coffee Cake, Andersonville Coffee Cake, Apple or Cherry Strudel, Almond Tarte, donuts, and cookies.
I hope that you are able to try/enjoy them before they ride off into the sunset!