Revisiting the Bakeries of Western Springs

The village’s love affair with Kirschbaum’s chocolate covered donuts is well known. But, do you recall the village’s other great bakeries?

It was in 1925 that village residents first forgot about dieting and began patronizing Hentges Bakery, which had just opened at 925 Burlington … that’s where Oberweis is now located. Mr. Hentges was no stranger to the art of baking, having 15 years prior experience, first at Chicago’s Atlantic Hotel and later at the famed Henrici’s Restaurant. See first photo.

Business must have been brisk because, just five years later in 1930, the Hentges announced they would build a $25,000, two-story building at 835 Burlington, where is located today. The new bakery was to be modern in all respects, including a “new electric cake-mixing machine” and two new ovens. The second floor would provide a five-room residence for the Hentges. 

Based on all reports, the new bakery was a great success and provided literally thousands of birthday cakes and other treats over the following two decades. However, the Hentges decided it was time to retire in 1954 and sold the business to Lester and Cecilia Kirschbaum. See second photo. In addition to creating wonderful baked goods, the Kirschbaums were always involved in the village they called home. As time went by, son Bob and his wife, Charlene, assumed increased responsibility. And, today, a third generation, grandson Mike and his wife Penny, who manages the bakery, keep the tradition alive.     

Kirschbaum’s has always had its own way of doing things. For example, they are closed Sundays and Mondays, aren’t open in the evening, don’t accept credit cards, ask you to take a number (and sometimes wait outside) on busy days, close for a three week vacation every July, and don’t officially open until 7 a.m., even though they always let commuters in after 6:30 a.m. for the requisite donut or sweet roll. And all that seems to be just fine with their loyal clientele.

Perhaps the best testimony to Kirschbaum’s popularity was found in a 1978 real estate ad. While listing all of the many selling points of their Forest Hills home, the sellers were careful to point out that it was within walking distance of “the train, school, parks, and Kirschbaum’s”. 

In addition to the downtown area, the Garden Market Shopping Center at 47th & Willow Springs Road has had its share of great bakeries during the past 50+ years. For example, the Fingerhut Bakery was an original tenant of the shopping center, which opened in 1959. One of four stores operated by Herb Fingerhut, it was well known for its Babi’s rye bread. See fourth photo.

Unfortunately, Fingerhut closed in 1977. However, in 1983, the Cake & Cookie Cottage leased space in Garden Market. See fifth photo. Billing itself as more of a specialty bakery, the Cottage featured “decorated cakes for any occasion”, as well as “cookie greetings”. Unfortunately, it closed within a few years.

Today, the houses the shopping center’s sole remaining bakery. See sixth photo. While Dominick’s sold Heinemann’s bakery products for many years (and still does), the store underwent a major expansion in the 1990’s, during which an on-site bakery was added. Breads, pies, pastries, dinner rolls, and bagels are just a few of the items available each day.

While searching for a logical conclusion to this story, it appeared that the only unanswered question was whether the author ate the Kirshbaum's donuts shown in the seventh photo. I did. But, in fairness, they were not paid for by the Historical Society. 

Joseph R. Martan March 27, 2012 at 11:44 PM
John: you don't have to apologize about the donuts - that was "field research." I brought a Sacher Torte from Kirschbaum's to the office today - there isn't a crumb left big enough for a poor mouse. My work mates were VERY happy. And as a good Bohemian I remember well the Babi Rye from Fingerhut's - that was still the best rye for a sandwich of Prasky sausage and hard salami (which my classmates back in high school at LT in the mid-60's just shook their heads over - they knew not what they were missing!).
Terese March 28, 2012 at 04:36 AM
One of my first jobs was at Fingerhut Bakery in the Garden Market. Their rye bread really was delicious! I'm sorry they closed, but glad Kirschbaum's is still around!
fiveslo October 29, 2012 at 07:37 AM
Fingerhuts from Brookfield, IL was the best... still remember it today and WISH it was here...
Joseph R. Martan October 30, 2012 at 09:55 PM
When did the Brookfield store finally go out of business?


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