99-year-old Dinkel’s Bakery might move, but its baked goods are here to stay
Dinkel’s Bakery, a Chicago mainstay since 1922, is looking to sell its current property, but the owner says that doesn’t mean they’ll stop serving their customers and could lead to a more modern Dinkel’s in the future.
The building that houses Dinkel’s Bakery, a Lake View neighborhood mainstay since it opened in 1922, is for sale.
But owner Norman Dinkel Jr. wants to make one thing clear — they have no plans to stop serving their customers.
The 99-year-old German bakery, located at 3329 N. Lincoln Ave., is taking offers on the building, but Dinkel said he plans to keep selling the stollen, cakes and paczki they are beloved for.
While Dinkel said his plans aren’t set in stone yet, more modern amenities could be in the family-owned bakery’s future.
“No doubt the location has served us very well for almost 100 years,” the 77-year-old Dinkel said. “But if you look at other people in the food business, they have parking lots, they have drive-thru facilities. We’re never going to have that where we are located.”
The building, anchored by its iconic vertical neon sign, includes the bakery’s storefront along with two residential units, Dinkel said.
Kyle Stengle, senior vice president of investments for the commercial brokerage firm Marcus and Millichap, which handling the sale, said the building could be bought and used as it is now — commercially and residentially — or there is potential for a buyer to apply for a zoning change and develop a larger building at the location.
If the building does sell, Dinkel said he’s looking at a number of options to continue to serve baked goods, including remaining in a small part of the building. Dinkel said other considerations include moving to a drive-thru business model, or transforming into an exclusively mail-order operation.
“If we sold the building, I would want to make sure that the people buying the building were going to make it better for the community,” Dinkel said.
The sale is the first step in a “million-mile journey” according to Dinkel, and the decision wasn’t an easy one to make.
“It’s got a lot of history, a lot of nostalgia,” Dinkel said. “I think the bakery is selling more than baked goods, we’re selling stability in a very unstable world.”
The bakery has operated through a world war and now, a pandemic. However, Dinkel said one of the biggest challenges he faces is shifting traditions. Dinkel grew up working at the bakery and has witnessed how the city’s culture has changed, especially since he started running it 30 years ago.
In the early days of the bakery, people would walk — or as Dinkel described it, “use the two foot express,” to go to shops multiple times a day. Now, those practices aren’t as common.
“Shopping habits have changed, driving, walking habits have changed,” Dinkel said. “It’s a fast-paced world and so the new model has to be reviewed.”
The outpouring of concern from community members after the sale was announced is a testament to why the shop has remained in business for nearly 100 years while other stores on the block have come and gone, according to Dinkel.
“Of course, we’re part of the community, of course, we love the community,” Dinkel said. “We’re part of Chicago. We hope we can remain a part of Chicago.”
For now, Dinkel’s is still open for customers to grab their fresh baked goods — and one of the 27,000 Paczkis the bakery are planning to prepare for Paczki Day on Tuesday.
“Everybody should sit down, take a deep breath, have a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, eat a Paczki and enjoy the tradition,” Dinkel said.