When Ken Slove, owner of Lovin Oven Cakery, moved into a new 43,000-square-foot facility earlier this year in Antioch, Illinois, a feeling of euphoria came over him. You see, this location features all the latest bells and whistles — a pair of Baxter rack ovens, a Bakon Top Cream machine and a Nor-Lake walk-in freezer and cooler.
“I have a 10-foot by 20-foot freezer and 12-foot by 20-foot refrigeration,” he says, beaming with joy like a proud father. “We have a blast freezer and a freezer. We have plenty of space to grow.”
All this modern equipment and additional space enables Lovin Oven to improve efficiency and ramp up production, as it continues to expand service to retail and wholesale customers around north Chicago. Slove knows he’s come a long way. In 1989, he opened his first retail store in a 1,200-square-foot building.
Today, Lovin Oven boasts three locations, and the new Antioch store is the crown jewel. Here, there’s a modern retail store connected to a massive production facility, where they can create one-of-a-kind cakes for area customers and conveniently freeze cakes as needed.
The new facility is wired with 480 voltage, as a bonus. “When I started pricing refrigeration, I bought 480 volt,” he says. “Also, every light in this facility is LED. My first electric bill here was $1,000, which is less than half of the average electric bill at our first facility. Spending a little more when you start new can really help.”
For more than 30 years, Simma’s Bakery has been creating cheesecakes, wedding cakes, pastries and more. The sweets are baked by highly trained pastry chefs, many of whom have been with Simma’s for more than 20 years. Simma, a young immigrant woman, founded the bakery in the early 1980s after she came to the United States with her husband and two children from Russia. After struggling at first, with her broken English and a gleam of hope in her eye, Simma opened the doors to a small bakery with the intentions of distributing the love and spirit of her family tradition through fine cheesecakes and pastries.
One specialty here is the delicious morning bun French toast, in a special display case that includes a unique recipe for customers to see on the door.
Current owners Peggy and Mark Carollo say their mission “is to continue to be that small, family run bakery on the corner with a focus on quality and customer service just as Simma demanded when she started the bakery.” The bakery’s award-winning cheesecake recipe has remained unchanged over the years.
Bread bakers at Troubadour work in full view of customers enjoying their sandwiches, pastries and coffee. You can witness bakers mixing and sheeting dough and baking fresh bread and pastries throughout the day. This makes Troubadour a destination for many young urban professionals in the neighborhood.
In addition to sweet goods, Troubadour offers numerous breads: pan loaves, boules, batards and baguettes. Doughs include sourdough, multi-grain, honey whole wheat, sesame semolina, raisin walnut, challah and ciabatta. Each loaf is baked by hand in the custom stone hearth oven, which was shipped from Italy and assembled by craftsmen on site.
For many bakers, bakery equipment holds a special place in their heart — like the 1954 and 1955 model Hobart mixers at Pfaff’s Bakery in Pontiac, Illinois. Richard Pfaff, owner of Pfaff’s Bakery, is still using the same two mixers that his father bought when he started the bakery. These models are so sturdy that, according to Richard’s father, they had to bring them into the bakery originally with a tow truck. Richard likes that the mixers are gear driven, as it makes them very durable.
Richard’s father was an immigrant from Hungary and came to the U.S. to work at his uncle’s bakery in Milwaukee. After getting experience there, he decided to open Pfaff’s Bakery in 1954. Richard Pfaff has owned the bakery for almost 20 years and has added a new location in Dwight, Illinois. This is now a satellite location for the bakery. Baking all occurs at the Pontiac location. He started out working at the bakery when he was 8 years old. Now he is responsible for all aspects of its the operation. His goal is to make sure the customers get their products and are satisfied. Pfaff still comes in at 2:30 a.m. to get the bakery started for the day.
Signature products are the chocolate-chocolate long johns, smiley-face cookies, coffee cake, doughnuts and cakes. They have a following — parents bring in their kids to have the same baked goods they had as kids. Pfaff considers being able to carry on his father’s tradition to be his greatest success, as well as having loyal customers. “I would love to see my own children carry on the business,” he says, “and have Pfaff’s Bakery make it to 100 years.”