LINCOLN SQUARE — Facing a dropoff in sales at street festivals, farmers markets and at its Lincoln Square bakery, Hilary’s Cookies is now offering delivery to customers who live within a 5-mile radius.
Hilary Black, the bakery’s owner, launched the business in 2003. She sells baked goods to her customers from her 4917 N. Lincoln Ave. location. But the majority of her direct sales are typically made at markets and festivals during the city’s warmer months.
Grocery store chains like Whole Foods carry her products, too, but that part of the business depends on a high volume to be profitable. And with one employee leaving before the pandemic and another since, Black and her husband are doing all the baking. Two other staff members are handling deliveries.
“Since it’s just the two of us baking it takes us 21 days to get our product out now instead of 14 days. And maybe we can’t give our wholesale customers everything they want but we’re still on the shelf,” Black said. “Normally, our direct retail sales really help balance out our other sales.”
Those retail sales, which account for about 30 percent of revenue, are now gone as festivals, concerts and conventions across the state are canceled until coronavirus is defeated, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday.
“At festivals like Apple Fest, the Ravenswood Art Walk and Ravenswood On Tap people are double fisting food and eating like they have not eaten and slept in a year,” Black said. “We’re always pretty pleased with ourselves with the sales from those events. For Apple Fest, sometimes I have to go back and bake like four or five more times for it because we sell out.”
While some farmer’s markets have gotten creative with online pre-orders and contactless pickup, Black still expects to lose out on direct sales opportunities this year.
At the beginning of April, the bakery started offering store pickup on Thursdays for select baked goods.
Out of an abundance of caution, Black and her husband began self-quarantining two weeks before the official dine-in ban. The remaining employees are only doing deliveries and only allowed in the bakery’s loading area to pick up orders and drop off supplies.
Black also disinfects the entrance to her business regularly. She admits it’s a bit extreme but says if she gets sick she won’t be able bake which would put her business in jeopardy.
“It’s really, infuriating watching people not follow the rules when there is so much at stake. We’re very lucky we’re able to continue our production right now,” Black said. “But people who are walking around with signs saying this is like Nazi Germany because they can’t get a haircut, I guarantee they are the same people who stick their fingers into the hot bar or cough into the open air during flu season without thinking about it.”
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