Brown Sugar Bakery owner Stephanie Hart outside her bakery, which was damaged by a hit-and-run driver.

CHATHAM — The owner of a beloved South Side bakery is trying to stay positive after someone crashed a car into her storefront, causing thousands of dollars in damages.

The crash at Chatham’s Brown Sugar Bakery happened about 6 a.m. Sunday, police said. The driver hit the front of the bakery at 328 E. 75th St., smashing the door, window and brick. The driver also slammed into a 10-by-10 walk-in cooler before leaving, police and owner Stephanie Hart said. 

No one was inside the bakery at the time. Police are still investigating. There have been no arrests.

Hart said one of her employees came to the bakery about 6 a.m., starting her shift later than usual. The employee thought there’d been a break-in but saw the extent of damage as she got closer, Hart said.

“We had an installation from the Art Institute up, and that was all torn apart. And then she said when she walked into the bakery, she could see that they had damaged the inside, too,” Hart said.

The damaged art installation at Brown Sugar Bakery.

The car was long gone, Hart said. Pieces of the car were strewn across the bakery. 

Hart was “hurt” when she saw the damage, she said. She estimated it will take about $20,000 to fix the broken infrastructure and replace the cooler.

“My business was hurt. It was broken,” Hart said. “Somebody hit us and cut us open.” 

But support from the community came quickly.

Hart was assessing the damage when a man drove by and offered to help. He called his cousin, and the men boarded up the exposed parts of the bakery in a few hours, Hart said.

Hart was able to reopen at its usual hours, serving her beloved caramel cakes, cupcakes and cheesecake slices Sunday. The men’s work was so thorough, her early customers didn’t realize there’d been any damage, Hart said.

Hart said she made the “conscious decision” to continue the rest of the day with an “uplifting mood” and encouraged her employees to “look on the bright side,” she said.

“Nobody in the bakery got hurt,” Hart said. “People could’ve been at work. It could have happened during the day. … A building can be fixed. And, as for a cooler, I can just buy a new one.

Damage from the crash.

“Me as a leader, I’m contagious. I’ve got all these people around, and they’re all panicked and everything. So I had a choice: I could go with them or I could encourage them. It didn’t feel good to feel sad. I didn’t want to not feel good.”

Once Chicagoans heard about the crash, they poured into the bakery, Hart said. The alderman, city and governor’s office reached out, she said.

Friends stopped by to give Hart hugs and make sure she was OK. Suddenly, it was a good day, she said.

“We had a busy day yesterday, and that kept everyone’s mind off of it because we had to serve the customers,” Hart said. “I appreciate everyone that came to the bakery and showed support. I appreciate the people that hit us up on social media and called and offered to help the business. I feel blessed as a business person in Chicago.” 

Despite all that has happened, Hart feels blessed, she said. Resilience has always been one of her “superpowers,” she said. 

“I can get knocked down and get back up, and that’s an important thing for business people to be able to do,” Hart said. “I got knocked down, but I feel like I bounced up, and that feels good. This is an example of how to dust your shoulders off.”

Hart said she’s looking for another cooler, something that took months the first time around. But she’s staying optimistic about that, too, she said. A neighboring business has offered space in its cooler. 

And the Art Institute will stop by the bakery to reinstall its installation, which celebrates its ancient Egypt exhibit, Hart said. 

Hart said she doesn’t have plans to start a GoFundMe for the bakery — insurance will take care of the damages. In the meantime, she hopes customers support businesses along the 75th Street corridor, she said. 

Hart also said she’s praying that whoever crashed into Brown Sugar Bakery is OK.

“I think shopping with us and supporting us all the time matters,” Hart said. “Things happen every day, and it all might not make it on the news. Support my whole community.”

Freshly baked and decorated cakes sit on display at Brown Sugar Bakery. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

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Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis