LAKEVIEW — Norman Dinkel couldn’t get off the phone Wednesday.
After announcing the closing of his family’s 101-year-old Dinkel’s Bakery Tuesday, Dinkel was deluged by fans from all over trying to get in their final orders. Those who could make it to bakery waited in a long line to buy out doughnuts, cakes and other pastries.
One woman even said she walked three miles to buy chocolate chip cookies.
Dinkel’s may be closing April 30, but its pastries will live on for much longer as customers said they planned to fill up their freezers to make the memories last. And some hope surfaced Wednesday of other bakeries keeping the name alive.
Dinkel said his shop has “fried about 5,000 doughnuts this morning” and served “a couple thousand customers” since he announced the closure. Block Club Chicago was the first to report the impending closure.
The bakery at 3329 N. Lincoln Ave. on the border of Lakeview and Roscoe Village, opened in 1922 under Joseph and Antonie Dinkel. It’s been run by four generations of the family, and questions about it being sold have come up before — but a closing sign was posted in the window Tuesday.
“To our customers and neighbors. Thank you …… 101 years serving you,” the sign read. “But it is time. Dinkel’s will close Saturday, April 30th.”
Lines at Dinkel’s Wednesday morning snaked through the shop’s three rooms with wait times over 45 minutes. Dinkel said the response to the shop’s closing has been “chaotic. chaotic.”
“We’re busier than heck. I can’t get off the phone. Everybody is working as fast as they can,” Dinkel said. “I’m honored and I’m sad.”
Sheets of chocolate doughnuts are flying off the shelves, Dinkel said, adding, “I guess I found out they are world famous.” People have inquired about buying the bakery’s iconic vertical sign, but Dinkel said, “I haven’t had time to pay attention to it yet.”
There’s a few half-baked ideas for how the baked goods can live on.
“There’s been some other bakeries saying they might want to keep the name going,” Dinkel said. “But nothing definite yet.”
Taking a precious breather from the doughnut line on Wednesday, employee Shannon Brody said longtime customers are “buying whatever they can” — cutting boards, shopping bags and orders of baked goods that rise above $500.
On Tuesday, a customer told Brody she was getting a cake to “freeze, ice and send to Arizona.”
“People are coming in and ordering cakes for next December,” Brody said. “They’re asking for everything. So they can pack their freezers with Dinkel’s stuff.”
Joe Raitano grasped onto five boxes of cookies and said he’s been coming to Dinkel’s since 1957.
“These cookies are my daughter-in-law’s favorite, and she’s pregnant. So I hope these freeze well,” Raitano said. “This place has always been pretty much the same. Except there weren’t as many people in line.”
Mike Goergen had his Dinkel’s shopping list scribbled on legal pad paper: lemon-filled, apple crumble and pecan rolls. He’s been sent on a mission by his brother, who has been stopping by Dinkel’s for over 40 years on his route as a CTA worker.
“He told me it’s the best of the best,” Goergen said. “Even though they’re probably all out of the good stuff by now. It’s a long way to the front of the line.”
Longtime customers like Judy Corbeille had no problem waiting peacefully and patiently. She walked three miles from Irving Park for chocolate chip cookies.
“It’s always a special treat, getting pastries at Dinkel’s,” Corbeille said. “There’s a lot of new pastry shops in town, and I want them to succeed, but it’s sad to see institutions that have been around for so long have to close. I’m glad people are coming by now to say goodbye.”
Among doughnut lovers eating their respects were members of the Daley family. Mike Daley, son of former mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of former mayor Richard M. Daley, said his family calls him “The Doughnut Man of Chicago.”
Mike Daley said it’s a tradition for him to pick up doughnuts for the whole family. He’s given boxes of doughnuts as Christmas presents and “gotten more analytical about testing and finding donut places in Chicago.”
He recently held a blind doughnuts taste test with all the Daley children. Dinkel’s chocolate donut ranked number one.
“This family likes to go to Dinkel’s,” Daley said. “So we had to get in and wait in line.”
Mike Daley’s daughter Beth Daley said it was always a good day when someone walked in with a pink and brown doughnuts box.
“This box is just as precious as a Tiffany blue,” Beth Daley said. “Chicago is known for its great bakeries, and this is one of the special ones. We hate to lose it.”
Dinkel said he doesn’t plan on taking any time off between now and closing. The phone rang again.
“I got to get back to work,” Dinkel said. “Do you want me to get fired?”
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