After three years in the West Loop and a year in Lincoln Park, Warm Belly Bakery closed both locations on Tuesday night. Co-founder Joe Dela Peña said both stores were underperforming and it was a good time for him and co-founder Francis Wisniewski to start a new journey. Warm Belly served a unique rotating selection of robust, thick cookies from 70 recipes.
Wisniewski recently moved to Wisconsin where he lives on a farm. Dela Peña is engaged and is planning his wedding for late 2020. He wanted a better work-life balance as he’s starting a family.
“We just felt like the timing was right,” Dela Peña said. “We chatted and we’re sad to do it, but I think it’s for the best.”
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Today was a bittersweet day at Warm Belly, as we have closed the doors on both stores for the last time so that Francis and Joe can pursue other passions and projects. The last four years have been an amazing ride and we want to thank our team, both past and present, as well as our loyal customers, who’ve made the cookie biz so much fun. As a final thank you, we invite you to join us this Saturday (8/17) at our West Loop store for FREE COOKIES from 5pm-8pm (or until we run out)! We’ll be baking our entire back stock of cookie dough. Come by to snag the best cookies ever... one last time. Best, Francis and Joe #warmbellybakery #chicago #cookies
Warm Belly received mentions on the Food Network and Forbes, and Dela Peña said it’s been quite the roller coaster over the last few years. The West Loop bakery (1148 W. Monroe Street) had an established customer base. However, Dela Peña said they struggled to find their footing in Lincoln Park (2472 N. Clark Street). In January, the bakery introduced CBD-infused cookies, hoping to jump early on the wave that’s swept through Chicago this year. While popular, they pulled the product for a few months. Dela Peña said there was too much uncertainty, at the time, on how Springfield lawmakers would legislate CBD and marijuana and how the market would look. The CBD cookies eventually returned to the bakeries, but by then it was too late and Warm Belly had lost momentum.
The CBD cookies may live on, but not via a Warm Belly storefront. Dela Peña is taking some time off, perhaps catching a few White Sox games, before figuring out his next move. He’s likely to stay in the food and beverage business as he has a few ideas he’d like to make reality.
“The name could definitely live on,” Dela Peña said. “We developed a really loyal fandom who really responded to the product. Maybe storefronts weren’t the best avenue for what we wanted to do.”