ANDERSONVILLE — Andersonville's beloved Swedish Bakery opened to a sidewalk full of customers, some waiting in chairs, on its last day in business Tuesday.
In pursuit of Swedish flop cake, Wendy Peele arrived at the bakery as it opened and didn't receive her treat until almost six hours later.
"I got here when it opened and there was 109 people in line," she said, adding she was "relieved" that her dedication paid off. "I came here last week and waited an hour. By the time [it was her turn] they had sold out of it."
The Lincoln Square resident has been coming to the bakery for about 40 years; her father got her hooked on the flop cake as a child. So the announcement of the closure left her surprised and saddened.
"Changing times have dictated an honest evaluation of our business," bakery owners announced to fans earlier this month on Facebook. "Based on that review, it is time to call a close and exit the stage. We have enjoyed a good run, but as Chaucer wrote, 'all good things must come to an end.'"
The bakery at 5348 N. Clark St. is unofficially known as the last Swedish bakery in Chicago. But there was a time when there were five Swedish bakeries within a few blocks of each other, said Sarah Carlson, whose parents owned the Swedish Bakery back in the 1950s.
"It's sort of sad in a way," she said. "The Rock Island from Augustana College [used to advertise] a trip to Andersonville. They had all these [landmarks] listed, and not many of them are left except the Swedish American Museum."
The bakery has been a reminder of the neighborhood's Swedish heritage for decades. Customers come from hundreds of miles away to get treats like cardamom coffee cakes and petit fours.
“People come here to really stock up,” said longtime customer Angelika Wolberg back in 2012.
Despite its name, the bakery is now owned by a German-Greek family, has no Swedes on staff and less than one-third of its products are Swedish.
The Stanton family has owned the bakery for nearly 38 years, the Facebook post said.
Marlies Stanton, who was born and raised in Germany, started working at the bakery in 1971. She and her husband bought the bakery from Gosta Bjuhr.
Since announcing the closure, long lines have formed outside the bakery daily. Tuesday, the bakery was prepared for the deluge, with their ticket dispenser handing out numbers 1-100 in sets of A, B and C, allowing about 300 people to wait at a time.
Carolyn Bertagnoli was hoping to grab some paczki to enjoy in the morning, but when she pulled ticket B95, she knew her Fat Tuesday ritual would be interrupted this year.
"On Fat Tuesday, we always have paczkis in the morning and [potato] pancakes for dinner," the Andersonville resident said. "I already went home, made coffee and did some laundry."
Along with the paczki, she also hoped to grab some Swedish rye bread and lympa bread knowing it would be difficult to find her favorite treats after Tuesday.
"I don't know where else you can get them. Now, there'll be no place for me to go for birthday cakes. It's actually really sad," she said.
Bertagnoli, whose grandmother was from Germany, wasn't the only one whose family traditions were interrupted Tuesday. As noon approached, Agatha Zagar, who moved to Chicago from Poland, had breakfast with her husband, went home, walked back to Swedish Bakery, and was still waiting for her turn, she said.
"I'm looking for my paczki because its Fat Tuesday... We usually come here every morning [on Fat Tuesday] and buy paczki because that's what you do with your coffee," she said.
For the last 18 years, she's stopped by the bakery on her birthday for princess cake, another item on her grocery list for the day.
"It's a big deal. It was a nice sweetheart for us and its going away," she said.