A beloved Lincoln Park bakery has been closed for months as ownership has been remodeling the space.
Floriole Bakery started 15 years ago as a one-woman operation in the Green City Market. Four years later, baker Sandra Holl opened a permanent space in Lincoln Park with a cafe. Eventually, Holl kept the cafe open all day and started up a wholesale operation that baked bread and pastry for markets and cafes around the city.
Floriole enjoyed tremendous success as one of the city’s premiere bakeries. Holl won the 2016 Jean Banchet Award for Pastry Chef of the Year. The cafe became a vital neighborhood space for lovers of gluten, families with small children in need of a safe haven, and customers with laptops who enjoyed using the sunlight-filled space as a place to get some work done with a tart, a cookie, or another sweet treat. The buttery, sugary, crispy-flaky kouign amann was a particular favorite.
Then the pandemic happened. Like everyone else, Holl had to rethink her business. Floriole relied on preorders for a bit, with customers not allowed on premises. Then the cafe set up a walk-up arrangement with its cashier terminal in front blocking the door while patrons ordered from the sidewalk. Finally, this summer, Holl shut down the bakery for three months to renovate the building to fit her new business model: She was going to build Floriole 2.0.
When Floriole reopens to the public on October 7, it will be a smaller, brighter bakery, closer to its roots than the enormous operation it had become by early 2020. “I was trying to do more and make more and work more,” Holl says. “And then I realized that more is not the best thing for the business or for everyone who works here.”
That means completely jettisoning the wholesale business and cutting back the cafe hours to five days a week. It also means closing off the second-floor seating area, reserving it for special events only. The menu will focus more on breads and pastries, with fewer soup and sandwich offerings. There will, however, be more grab-and-go and bake-at-home options, a mail order service, and a retail section with specialty condiments and spices from Chicago-area businesses. One of the bakers is already working to expand the vegan pastry repertoire.
The cafe itself will be getting a remodel, with fresh paint and tile and a new pastry counter. Over the summer, while the bakery was closed, Holl took the time to train the front-of-house staff in customer service, allergen issues, and using the computer system — things she didn’t have time for when the business was in full swing.
With the shrinking of the business, the staff has shrunk, too, from 30 people to ten. “It’s a big loss,” Holl says. “I don’t want to be flippant about it. A lot of people don’t have jobs because we’ve changed.” But Holl believes that, with a smaller team, she’ll be better able to serve the employees she does have. When the bakery was open overnight to do the baking for wholesale, for example, she couldn’t be there in person if something went wrong. And during the closure this summer, she was able to keep paying everyone’s salary, thanks to $460,000 in Payment Protection Plan (PPP) loans and and an $892,000 Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grant; those two things, she says, made all the difference.
And now she’s excited to reopen. Her customers are excited, too, after three months without their beloved kouign amann. “People are surviving,” Holl says with a laugh, “but some are sending threatening messages on Instagram.”
Floriole, 1220 W. Webster Avenue, planned for an October 7 reopening.