Take Back Chicago Bakeries

A surge in tech start-ups is bringing excitement to the city’s entrepreneurial scene, and a look at Built in Chicago, an entrepreneurial networking site, gives you a peak at this flurry of activity. These local businesses, like FeeFighters, Dabble, or the soon to launch Duck Duck Dish, or in the virtual world, which is of course historically speaking, quite new. Comparatively though, tangible businesses like a store or a restaurant have greater potential for stability, rather than a potentially fly-by-night mobile app that’s aiming to be the next Facebook.

This brings me to the point of this post: Chicago bakeries. Listen up investors: Bakeries have Picture of faux antique neon signexisted as a business for centuries, and just about everyone loves a fresh baguette or a pretty pastry. And sadly, our beloved Loop is littered with mediocre bakeries with headquarters elsewhere, and it’s getting worse. Crumbs Bake Shop, a transplant from New York, have arrived in the Loop with two locations. And we all know Corner Bakery, right? With its faux antique neon signs and black and white photos of old buildings on walls inside, it likes to give the illusion of being historic to Chicago. Wrong! This Dallas-based chain has nothing to do with Chicago. Magnolia Bakery, again from New York, has arrived at the infamous Block 37, and one can tell from the reviews it’s “bleh.” (As a side note, much of State Street’s real estate is owned by New Yorkers in fact.)

In the whole scheme of downtown Chicago, locally owned bakeries are strikingly absent. Thank heavens we have a few locally owned stars like Sugar Bliss Cupcake Boutique and the new Toni Patisserie. Or you can get lovely (and cheap) locally made treats at the Downtown Farmstand. Bleeding Heart Bakery was to open a location in Block 37, and of course they are holding back until this mall-in-foreclosure begins to have foot traffic. At least we have a couple Intelligentsia locations to supply some baked goods, like flaky croissants and crumbly scones, without that horribly processed chemical taste of a Corner Bakery muffin or a Dunkin donut. Need an example of demand for quality food downtown? Look at the success of Hannah’s Bretzel. Or another example of home-grown treats gone wild? Try the Doughnut Vault in River North. (Another side note: While my Chicago tour company does give walking tours, I am no stranger to this world of the food scene. And yes, we do have a food tour in the works.)

With the current economic climate, shouldn’t investors be interested in businesses that may not explode in 25x returns the first year, but perhaps offer slow-but-steady financial growth? Wouldn’t an investment in such a business be much more secure? If I’ve got your attention, here are some small bakeries and treat-makers with big taste: Lucila’s Aljfares, Bleeding Heart, Puffs of Doom, La Boulangerie, Sweet Mandy B’s, Rich Chocolates and Candies or Hoosier Mama Pie. No wonder that when food trucks like Flirty Cupcakes or Sweet Ride Chicago arrives on a street corner office workers are inspired to make a radical change in their workday by buying a homegrown treat.

— Amanda Scotese, Executive Director


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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