KANSAS CITY — When Ken Slove, owner of Lovin Oven Cakery, moved into a new 43,000-square-foot facility earlier this year in Antioch, Ill., a feeling of euphoria came over him. You see, this location features all the latest bells and whistles — a pair of Baxter rack ovens, a Bakon Top Cream machine and a Nor-Lake walk-in freezer and cooler.
“I have a 10-foot by 20-foot freezer and 12-foot by 20-foot refrigeration,” he said. “We have a blast freezer and a freezer. We have plenty of space to grow.”
All this modern equipment and additional space enables Lovin Oven to improve efficiency and ramp up production, as it continues to expand service to retail and wholesale customers around north Chicago. Mr. Slove knows he’s come a long way. In 1989, he opened his first retail store in a 1,200-square-foot building.
Today, Lovin Oven boasts three locations, and the new Antioch store is the crowning jewel. Here, there’s a modern retail store connected to a massive production facility, where they can create one-of-a-kind cakes for area customers and conveniently freeze cakes as needed.
The new facility is wired with 480 voltage, as a bonus.
“When I started pricing refrigeration, I bought 480 volt,” he said. “Also, every light in this facility is LED. My first electric bill here was $1,000, which is less than half of the average electric bill at our first facility. Spending a little more when you start new can really help.”
Lovin Oven was one of the featured bakeries on the Chicago R.B.A. Roadshow, conducted this spring by the Retail Bakers of America.
Other bakeries on the tour included Simma’s Bakery in Wauwatosa, Wis., and Troubadour Bakery in Milwaukee. Both bakeries featured a host of new equipment and product innovations.
For more than 30 years, Simma’s Bakery has been creating cheesecakes, wedding cakes, pastries and more. The sweets are baked by highly trained pastry chefs, many of whom have been with Simma’s for more than 20 years. Simma, a young immigrant woman, founded the bakery in the early 1980s after she came to the United States with her husband and two children from Russia. After struggling at first, with her broken English and a gleam of hope in her eye, Simma opened the doors to a small bakery with the intentions of distributing the love and spirit of her family tradition through fine cheesecakes and pastries.
One specialty here is the morning bun French toast, which the bakery features in a special display case that includes a unique recipe for customers to see on the door.
Current owners Peggy and Mark Carollo say their mission “is to continue to be that small, family run bakery on the corner with a focus on quality and customer service just as Simma demanded when she started the bakery.” The bakery’s award-winning cheesecake recipe has remained unchanged over the years.
The retail store features curved-glass display cases from Federal that are lit to put the showcase on the products.
Single-serve cakes and cheesecakes are one of the biggest trends this year, said Peggy Carollo, who said that today’s customers are looking for high quality and convenience.
Customers want to see bakers in action, as evidenced by another bakery on the R.B.A. Roadshow tour that included bread bakers at Troubadour working in full view of customers enjoying their sandwiches, pastries and coffee. You can witness bakers mixing and sheeting dough and baking fresh bread and pastries throughout the day. This makes Troubadour a destination for many young urban professionals in the neighborhood.
Bread is a return to the “old-world ways” of baking — patiently made by hand using simple ingredients, natural leavening, and long fermentation for intensified flavors and keeping qualities. In addition to sweet goods, Troubadour offers numerous breads: pan loaves, boules, batards and baguettes. Doughs include sourdough, multi-grain, honey whole wheat, sesame semolina, raisin walnut, challah and ciabatta. Each loaf is baked by hand in the custom stone hearth oven, which was shipped from Italy and assembled by craftsmen on site.