East Dundee's Piece-A-Cake Bakery closing next year
Opening an East Dundee bakery on a leap of faith in 1994, Diane and Roger Ahrens had no idea how many friends they'd make, lives they'd touch or traditions in which they'd partake.
For 25 years, Piece-A-Cake Bakery has made custom sweets for local residents' weddings, baby showers, birthdays, graduations and funerals. Generations of families visit the downtown shop at 304 N. River St. to sample homemade cookies, pastries and pies. And once a month, staff members pack boxes of baked goods to send to troops overseas.
The memories are bittersweet for the bakery owners, who plan to cease operations at their quintessential mom-and-pop shop early next year. But Diane Ahrens said they take comfort in the joy they've brought to their customers.
"I have kids that came in and got cookies when they were little, and now they're getting wedding cakes or first birthday cakes for their kids," she said. "You don't think about, when you're starting out, what could be. That's kind of the fun in it."
The bakery has been a longtime draw for customers throughout the suburbs and beyond, and many have remained loyal. For the past 18 years, Ahrens said, she has supplied the gingerbread houses for one local family's Thanksgiving tradition. In 2010, she delivered a wedding cake to Texas for a couple originally from the Dundee area.
But a changing industry and some family health issues have caused the business to struggle the past few years, Diane and Roger Ahrens said in a Facebook post Monday. For more than a year, Piece-A-Cake was operating with a skeleton crew, they said, and owners were discussing ways to downsize the business.
Last month, the building they've rented since the bakery opened was purchased by an investor, who intends to "make some changes," Village President Lael Miller said. Details of those plans were not immediately available.
The sale was "confirmation that we were free to move on and retire and go to the next season of life," Diane Ahrens said. She and her husband plan to finish the holiday season and begin clearing out the shop in January.
"This whole process is difficult, but it is a sense of release," the Ahrenses said in the Facebook post. "When we started 25 years ago, I never thought about how long I would be here. I have taken one day at a time, and each has been a blessing."
The Ahrens family has reached several milestones while operating the bakery, Diane and Roger said, pointing to births, weddings and graduations. Diane has taught at Kendall College in Chicago and the Wilton School in Darien, and she's competed twice on TLC's "Ultimate Cake Off."
Both Marine veterans, the couple also has organized events and taken on several projects aimed at helping past and current military personnel, including the 15-year-old "Operation Sweet Tooth." They will continue sending cookies to troops after they retire, they said, though it'll be done from home and on a smaller scale.
"Diane and Roger are some of the most wonderful people that I've ever met and worked with," Miller said. "The business is a local landmark. It's something that can't be replaced. We'll miss them terribly."