The community is rallying to save a beloved bakery from possible closure.
Oliver’s Bakery, 3526 Roosevelt Road, sold out of its donuts and cakes over the weekend as hundreds of Kenoshans lined up to support the family-owned business.
“I love my job. I love the people who come in here. People come in that you know and you bond with them,” said owner Anne Benson.
Benson said she was up late one night last week anxious about the funds available in her bank accounts. She posted about her struggles on social media and went to bed. When she awoke, she learned her post went viral locally, as friends and customers shared it on Facebook.
Soon, customers began lining up to purchase whatever they could to ensure Oliver’s is around for many more years. On Friday and Saturday, Benson sold out of everything in a matter of hours.
“I didn’t anticipate the huge crowd,” she said. “They didn’t care what they bought. They just wanted to purchase something. I was crying at these people all day (Saturday) when I was talking to them.”
Steve Milkie, a lifelong Kenoshan, was one of those customers.
“It’s one of the staples. We’ve lost so many bakeries. I’d hate to see us lose another one,” he said.
Benson said she’s humbled and honored by the local support.
“It’s humbling to know we’re loved this much,” she said. “Sometimes when you sit here and you don’t get business in and people have forgotten you, you kind of think no one cares anymore.”
Benson, who has worked at the bakery for more than four decades, purchased it in 2013. She hopes Oliver’s Bakery will be around for many more years.
Still, a multitude of factors are making times tough for Benson. She said folks aren’t frequenting family-owned bakeries as often because of the appeal of newer big-box stores. The COVID-19 pandemic also meant fewer cakes for parties and conferences.
“Small businesses are all struggling, and the bakery business is a thing of the past because it’s not convenient,” Benson said. “We used to have a bakery in every section of town. We’re down to two full bakeries and some bread places and that’s it.”
When the pandemic struck, foot traffic steeply declined and orders for cakes dried up.
“I was paying more out than was coming in,” she said. “Everything that happened last year set me way behind. My son is young, he wants to carry on this tradition. … Small businesses need customers all year.”