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Linda's Magic Brownies Aren't That Kind Of Magic — At Least Not Yet

By Janet Rausa Fuller | April 7, 2016 6:15am

Linda's Magic Brownies come in 10 flavors, none of which are the edible marijuana kind. [DNAinfo/Janet Rausa Fuller]

LAKEVIEW — When you call your business “Linda’s Magic Brownies,” the question from customers inevitably comes up: Are they that kind of magic?

Well, no — not yet, say mother-daughter owners Linda and Abby Lerner. But getting weed-infused versions of their gourmet brownies to people who need them is on their to-do list.

The Lakeview residents, who launched their brownie business in November, went to an Illinois Women in Cannabis event in February to meet marijuana cultivators and learn more about the state’s budding edibles industry.

Dispensaries began selling edibles in mid-December, shortly after award-winning Chicago chef Mindy Segal announced she will make a line of weed-laced sweets for Cresco Labs, the state’s largest cultivator.

“We’ve heard they can’t keep edibles on the shelves at dispensaries, that they’re at very high demand and they’ll be looking for more product sooner rather than later,” Abby Lerner said.

It’s true, said Paul Lee, general manager of Dispensary 33 in Andersonville, the city’s first dispensary where the edibles menu includes chocolates, gummies and capsules.

“In general, edibles are a really significant portion of the market, probably upwards of 30 percent,” he said. “They sell really, really well here.”

Only licensed cultivation centers can make and package edibles. For now, the Lerners press forward with regular brownies in unusual (and, they say, no less magical) flavors such as lemon and Grand Marnier.

For Linda Lerner, this is a mid-1980s revival of a solo venture by the same name.

As a TV and radio assignment editor, writer and producer, Linda was known as that person in the newsroom — there’s always one — who would bring in homemade goodies for co-workers.

Linda Lerner (l.) revived her brownie-baking business at the urging of her daughter Abby. [DNAinfo/Janet Rausa Fuller]

A chance encounter with a restaurateur who tasted Lerner's brownies at a garage sale led to a baking deal to make brownies for that woman’s restaurant and six others in Chicago.

In 1997, the Lerners moved to Dallas for her husband Al’s job; he also worked in broadcasting as a sports anchor and radio talk show host. Linder Lerner shelved the brownie business, but didn’t stop baking.

Abby Lerner, meanwhile, went off to college, earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a master’s in public policy, had a stint working for a L.A. documentary filmmaker and moved back to Chicago in 2014, ready for a career change. Last year, her parents moved back, too.

“I was the one pushing my mom to reopen her business,” Abby Lerner said. “Everyone loves the brownies.”

And that name.

Abby insisted they keep the name and even the original logo. They found space at Lakeview Kitchen and Market, a commercial kitchen and retail shop at 3109 N. Broadway (also mother-daughter owned), and started baking last fall.

“It’s Lucy and Ethel sometimes in the kitchen, but it’s fun,” Linda said with a laugh.

They sell 10 kinds of brownies, cut into big triangles and priced between $3.50 and $4. A variety pack costs $7.50.

“Ours is as fudgy as you can get without being actual fudge. But it still has that brownie chew,” Abby Lerner said.

Linda's Magic Brownies are for sale at Lakeview Kitchen and Market and the Blommer's Chocolate store. [DNAinfo/Janet Rausa Fuller]

They use Blommer’s chocolate — Linda did from the start — and in January, the Blommer's factory store in River West started selling their brownies, too. Next week, Will's Northwoods Inn, a bar both Lerners frequent as University of Wisconsin alums, will start using their brownies for a brownie sundae.

At the Good Food Festival in March, the Lerners handed out samples of a new variety, a gluten-free brownie with the flavor profile of a Fuzzy Navel.

They’re experimenting with ingredients from other local businesses, including basil from a friend who works for a Bridgeport farm and curry powder from the Chutney Devis, another Lakeview Kitchen vendor.

Making truly magical brownies (wink, wink) will prove much more difficult, given licensing restrictions and the complicated process of incorporating marijuana’s active ingredients into the already exacting science of baking.

But the demand is there, and Abby Lerner said her research was ongoing. She's traveling to Colorado in a few weeks on personal business but hopes to connect with cultivators and maybe even do some test-baking while there. Recreational marijuana use is legal in Colorado.

“One thing we haven’t seen is the really delicious edible,” said Lee of Dispensary 33.

He expects Segal’s brittles and granola, which should be arriving within weeks, to fill that void. For most patients, he said, “it’ll probably be more like a treat or a one-off thing.”

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