Essay: A Farewell to Dinkel’s—Because After 100 Years, It’s About to Close

Dinkel’s Bakery, a North Side institution, is closing its doors on April 30 after 100 years. Its bereft customers are lining up for beloved breads and pastries. One customer was inspired to write a farewell to her favorite bakery.

Guest essay by Merrily Beyreuther.

I was in line outside Dinkel’s for 40 minutes on a mission to buy a couple of pastry gifts (and maybe something for me).  When you’re in line for a long wait, you strike up conversations with those around you. Two young women were in front of me; one was wearing a sweatshirt with “TALENTLESS” printed across the back. 

We noted the WTTW van parked across the street; was a bakery newsworthy? Down Lincoln Avenue a bit was a drum store and next to that a musical instrument store. “Maybe someone should suggest that they play a dirge on April 30,” I said. “What’s a dirge?” asked another customer.

Nearby in line was a couple with two young children; one a boy about age 4 with what the Brits would call ginger hair. He cupped his hands and leaned against the glass window, “I can see the donuts,” he said excitedly. His little sister, who wasn’t tall enough to see through the window, was alternately hugging, dancing, stretching out her free arm to each parent in turn, and behaving very well during the long wait.

Image courtesy of the author.

Once inside about 30 of us were snaking our way toward the bakery counter. In the space to the left was a large blackboard menu with blocks of neatly written script. The sandwich names caught my attention: the Woolworth sandwich harkening back to the good old days of dime stores. Wieboldt’s tuna salad and Goldblatt’s hot sandwich paid homage to the long-closed neighborhood department stores. On the breakfast side of the menu was Dinkel’s Day; I sensed the irony.

A photo hung on the adjacent wall—taken after dark from across the street looking back at Dinkel’s at an angle.  Dark street, lighted Dinkel’s sign, lighted interior, reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”

The fellow behind me in line went to talk to the WTTW crew. “He’s into filming,” said his friend.  A few minutes later the crew came over and did a quick interview with them. He was a regular at Dinkel’s; she was a first timer and had an armload of pre-packaged items.

My mission was to buy a stollen for my sister’s freezer and a box of gingersnaps for my California brother’s birthday. No gingersnaps on the display table.  When I finally reached the counter, I asked the clerk if there were more gingersnaps in the back. Unfortunately, no more.  After an hour and ten minutes I paid for the stollen plus my chocolate donut. I’ll check back for the gingersnaps in a couple of days…and wait in line for the last time. 

Dinkel’s Bakery was founded in 1922 by Joseph R. Dinkel, a Bavarian immigrant descended from a family of master bakers. Joseph did all the baking and his wife, Antonie, took care of the customers. Dinkel’s moved into its current location at 3329 N. Lincoln Ave. in 1932. Norman, the founders’ son, began working in the bakery and in the 1970s, Norman Jr., his son, took over and still owns the bakery. The manager is his son-in-law Luke Karl, also the descendant of a bakery family in Kansas City. More information about Dinkel’s Bakery here

Merrily Beyreuther is a writer who first lived in Chicago in the 1970s. She returned ten years ago after having lived in the mountain west, the east coast, the southwest and south of the border. She is enjoying reacquainting herself with all that Chicago offers.

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