WEST RIDGE — A Misericordia bakery and cafe opens Tuesday in West Ridge, creating an off-campus spot where fans of the charity’s baked goods can grab a sweet treat and coffee.
The Misericordia Hearts & Flour Bakery and Cafe, 6130 N. Ravenswood Ave., will also feature a drive-thru lane, fulfilling a goal of Sister Rosemary Connelly, the charity’s longtime executive director. It’s just a few blocks south of Misericordia’s campus, which serves more than 600 residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Misericordia has long had a popular bakery on the campus, but now the standalone cafe moves into the neighborhood, offering locals — and a steady stream of commuters headed to DuSable Lake Shore Drive — a new spot to stop.
The cafe has baked goods, including cookies and Misericordia’s signature heart-shaped brownies; as well as smoothies, sandwiches, salads, Collectivo and nitro coffee and kombucha on tap, among other things.
Like the on-campus location, the new cafe will employ Misericordia residents and staff.
“We’re really excited to keep everything fresh and new, as many new and exciting offerings as possible to bring new people in, while sticking with what the favorites are,” said Beth Woytek, the bakery’s manager, who worked at the on-campus location for nearly 12 years.
Founded in 1921, Misericordia — which means “heart of mercy” in Latin — is a community of residents who live and work on its 31-acre campus at 6300 North Ridge Ave. Residents can work at the charity’s restaurant, art department, community service programs, gift shop or Hearts & Flour Bakery to learn career-building skills to take to off-campus jobs.
Residents in the bakery program also package baked goods that are shipped to customers all over the United States via the Hearts & Flour Bakery online shop.
Woytek said the new bakery is an extension of Misericordia’s longtime mission of supporting people with disabilities.
“It was mainly an in-house operation to start with, but quickly it grew into providing baked goods for events on-campus, and then many years ago we started our online website so people could purchase gifts and have them shipped all over the country,” Woytek said.
“So that has been ongoing and growing stronger every year and based on the history of that, and the popularity that all of our baked goods have had over the years, it’s just a natural growth, that we extend the services to other people in the community.”
At the new bakery and cafe, residents label cookie bags, cut brownies, wrap breads and other baked goods, and they perform important tasks in the kitchen. They’ll also work side by side with bakers and cooks to assemble sandwiches and make the treats Hearts & Flour is known for.
The Misericordia Hearts & Flour Bakery and Cafe will have a dine-in area as well as the drive-thru. There’s a large window in the cafe so customers can see the bakers and chefs in the kitchen.
Woytek said transitioning to working at the standalone bakery was a bit of a challenge despite her long tenure at Misericordia. Helping to build a business from the ground up, developing menus and performing other managerial tasks in preparation for the opening was slowed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chain issues made acquiring necessary equipment and ingredients difficult, as well, she said.
Not being able to regularly see Misericordia residents — who were quarantined — was also hard for Woytek, who said working with the residents is deeply fulfilling.
“My favorite part of the job is working with the residents,” Woytek said. “It gives me a sense of calm during the day. They teach me so many lessons about life that you would not even imagine.
“There’s not many bakery jobs that are out there, or pastry chef jobs, that allow you to also give back to your community and give back in such a meaningful way with your work every day. So, if I had a choice of picking my dream job in this industry, I think I found it so that it’s really been a great experience for me.”
Misericordia Hearts & Flour Bakery and Cafe is open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Later hours may be added in the future, Woytek said.
Hearts & Flour Bakery “has been around for years and years, so we’re happy to continue the legacy of that bakery here adding the cafe,” Woytek said.
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