Beloved Lake View bakery set to close Saturday after 100 years in business

Hordes of people have been lining up outside Dinkel’s since the owner announced the bakery would close April 30.

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Customers wait in line to buy baked goods for the last time at Dinkel’s Bakery and Cafe on Friday. The shop closes for good Saturday.

Customers wait in line to buy baked goods for the last time at Dinkel’s Bakery and Cafe on Friday. The shop closes for good Saturday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A take-you-back-to-your-childhood sugary odor wafted through the bakery, its well-worn wood floors coated in a dusting of flour.

Norm Dinkel told a worker to start up the massive “traveling tray” oven so the pastries inside wouldn’t burn. It was built in 1944, the same year of Dinkel’s birth.

Dinkel didn’t bark at his employee. His is a slow, murmuring voice — the same one that he uses with customers, who have been coming to Dinkel’s Bakery and Café in Lake View for 100 years.

Ever since Dinkel announced about a month ago that the bakery would close April 30, hordes of people have been lining up beneath the store’s rusting-along-the-seams neon orange sign.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Dinkel, 78. “I had no idea we were going to have something like this.”

They’re not coming for pastries with exotic ingredients and designs you might find in an art gallery.

A batch of cupcakes at Dinkel’s Bakery and Café in Lake View.

Dinkel’s Bakery and Café in Lake View will close its doors Saturday.

Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

A lot of people came for the doughnuts Friday morning.

“It brings back memories of childhood, and there is nothing that beats their chocolate doughnuts — no place in the city,” said Connie Mixon, a political science professor whose parents bought their wedding cake at Dinkel’s in the 1950s. “I’ve tasted just about every chocolate doughnut in the city. … Not too heavy, not too light.”

It’s the “fudge” frosting, chimed in Quetina Kaiser, 40, in line behind Mixon. Kaiser worked at Dinkel’s for four years, quitting in 2013 only because she was moving out of state.

“When I moved out, [the Dinkel family] were so sad to see me go that they actually took me out to dinner,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser was back Friday to say goodbye to some old friends, she said.

She was one of the dozens of people squeezed inside the store.

“Miss, how may I help you? And you, sir, with the excellent beard and hat?” said Phil O’Reilly, talking to a young couple who’d been waiting patiently in line.

Kevin Walsh, 52, of Edgebrook, got a text from his special needs daughter at 5:40 a.m, Friday begging him to pick her up a chocolate doughnut.

“She’s worried there will be no more doughnuts,” said Walsh, who has been coming to Dinkel’s for 30 years. “I’d wait all day if I had to. If she wants the last doughnut, then I’ll provide it.”

Hard to say what will be left on Saturday.

Dinkel — wearing a white apron and looking remarkably trim for a man surrounded by so many sugary, buttery goods — said he’s been asked many, many times what he plans to do after retiring.

He doesn’t know.

Perhaps he’ll try to wrap his mind around the millions of cakes Dinkel’s has served through the years.

“We’ve got families of four and five generations — wedding cakes, anniversary cakes, baptism cakes, Holy Communion cakes, cakes for funerals,” he said. “Bakeries are wonderful because they bring people together, and that’s a nice business to be in, especially in today’s world.”

Customers wait in line Friday at Dinkel’s Bakery and Cafe in Lake View — one day before the beloved bakery is set to close for good.

Customers crowded into Dinkel’s Bakery and Cafe on Friday. The shop closes for good Saturday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

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