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El Nopal Bakery, Little Village 'Pioneer,' Closes After 60-Plus Years

By Erica Demarest | August 13, 2015 5:37am | Updated on August 13, 2015 12:03pm
 The family-run El Nopal Bakery is closing its doors after more than 60 years.
El Nopal Bakery
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LITTLE VILLAGE — The family-run El Nopal Bakery has closed its doors after more than 60 years in Chicago, the owner confirmed Wednesday.

The iconic bakery first set up shop on the Near West Side in 1954 before eventually moving to Pilsen in the 1960s. In 1974, husband-and-wife team Francisco and Celia Bonilla opened their second location in Little Village.

Though the Pilsen locale shuttered several years ago, son Frank Bonilla has continued to run the Little Village bakery at 3648 W. 26th St. since his mother's death in 2013.

A sign on the bakery window now announces Frank Bonilla's retirement.

"It's certainly a big loss for the community," said Jaime di Paulo, executive director at the Little Village Chamber of Commerce.

"Nopal is one of the big anchors" in Little Village, he continued. "People came here from across the Chicago area and the Midwest to buy their bread for many, many years."

The community news site Chicago Voz called the closure "devastating to the community" in a story about its long history this week.

Frank Bonilla first announced the closure on Facebook — but said he hopes someone will buy the shop and his family's recipes.

"We've decided to retire," Bonilla posted. "We thank you for your loyal patronage. But El Nopal will go on. A Mexican institution for over 60 years, El Nopal Bakery is for sale. Interested in buying the business? Please contact our agent ... for details."

The 3,600-square-foot property is listed with Michals Realty for $560,000.

An employee with the firm said Wednesday there have been several showings at the bakery, but no one has agreed to buy or rent the space.

Di Paolo said El Nopal Bakery was "one of the big pioneer businesses in Little Village in the late 70s, early 80s. It's one of those [places] that made Little Village what it is, what it once was."

Earlier this year, Dollop Coffee Co. and Hoosier Mama Pie Co. announced plans to team up in the former El Nopal Bakery space in Pilsen at 1844 S. Blue Island Ave.

"It's the most beautiful bakery. It's stunning," co-owner Paula Haney said at the time, noting that the bakery's existing tile work matches Hoosier Mama's signature retro green theme. "Ever since I've been in Chicago, I've dreamt about this bakery ... sitting intact and unused, and we found it."


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