Five things you must know before going to a bakery



A while ago, an item in the "I love...I hate" column in the Chicago Tribune's Play section caught my eye. A woman "hated" that she drove 45 minutes to a bakery just to find out it was closed.

If that woman had read this post, she might have avoided the trip. Here are some important things to know about bakeries before you head out to one of them:

1. Independent, retail bakeries are treasures, to be sure. But these bakeries are usually small, family-run businesses, with the owners clocking in long hours. Bakers need a break. Traditionally, many neighborhood bakeries are closed on Mondays.

2. Because a lot of local bakeries are small businesses, the owners may not have enough staff to operate if they go out of town. It's not unusual for bakeries to simply close down when they want to take a vacation. The owner may post the information on the bakery's Facebook page. On the other hand, your only indication that the bakery is closed may simply be a hand-written sign in the window.

3. Small bakeries usually bake a limited amount of goodies. If you're counting on something in particular--a Blueberry Buckle coffeecake, for example, at most bakeries you'll want to arrive early in the morning to snag it.

4.For all the previous reasons, call the bakery and place your order ahead of time if they'll let you.

5. Most bakeries are not open in the evening, but there are exceptions such as Alliance Bakery in Wicker Park, which is open seven days a week until 9 p.m.

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