A nearly 100-year-old bakery that started in Chicago is closing its doors for good after two years of navigating pandemic challenges.
Gladstone Bakery opened on Milwaukee Avenue in 1925 as Gladstone Park Bakery.
In 2004, owner Joseph LoChirco said the bakery moved to Elk Grove Village where it thrived with catering orders for large organizations, companies, hotels, schools and local businesses.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, many of these accounts never came back, according to LoChirco. The recent trend of inflation was the final nail in the coffin.
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"The schools, even with the hotels, they just never bounced back quick enough. When they did, we didn't have the staffing in place," said LoChirco. "Prices just jumped up 30% to 50% within our commodity buying. If you can't buy it [or] it wasn't on the market, you can’t make it. That’s what pays our bills."
LoChirco said the bakery used to have 22-plus employees before the pandemic. Now, he's lucky to have three on his busiest days.
"They’re retired [but] they still come in to help out off and on," said LoChirco. "At the end of the day, we made sure to take care of our customers. If it was long hours, we stayed and did it."
On President's Day, the bakery was supposed to be closed but LoChirco said customers were lined up outside his business to say goodbye and put in final orders. One of those customers included a couple all the way from Austin, Texas.
Bonnie Strohmeyer used to live in Chicago and introduced the bakery’s famous coffee cakes to her husband, David. Both booked a $400 plane ticket to Chicago this week when they heard of the bakery’s closing.
"They are absolutely delicious, and we are so sad they are closing," said Bonnie Strohmeyer. "We hope they open sometime in the future."
LoChirco wouldn’t confirm or deny his next steps. He admitted this was a difficult decision to make as customers talk about creating a GoFundMe page to keep the business in operation.
LoChirco said Gladstone Bakery will close for good on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
Want to hear the rest of the story? Be sure to watch the video above with a few words from bakery owner, Joseph LoChirco.