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

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Dinkel’s Bakery, a North Side institution, closes April 30 after 100 years. Its destitute customers line up for the beloved breads and pastries. A customer was inspired to write a farewell to her favorite bakery.

Essay invited by Merrily Beyreuther.

I stood in line outside Dinkel for 40 minutes on a mission to buy some baking gifts (and maybe something for myself). When you stand in line for a long wait, you engage in conversations with those around you. Two young women were in front of me; one wore a sweatshirt with “TALENTLESS” printed on the back.

We noticed the WTTW van parked across the street; was a worthwhile bakery? A little further down Lincoln Avenue was a drum shop and next to it a musical instrument store. “Maybe someone should suggest playing a funeral dirge on April 30,” I said. “What is a funeral dirge?” asked another customer.

Nearby, in line, was a couple with two young children; a boy of around 4 years old with what the British would call red hair. He clasped his hands and leaned against the glass. “I can see the donuts,” he said enthusiastically. Her little sister, who was not tall enough to see out the window, hugged, danced, took turns extending her free arm to each parent, and behaved very well during the long wait.

Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

Once inside, about 30 of us meandered towards the bakery counter. In the space to the left was a large blackboard menu with neatly written script blocks. The names of the sandwiches caught my eye: the Woolworth sandwich reminiscent of the good old days of dime stores. Wieboldt’s tuna salad and Goldblatt’s hot sandwich paid homage to long-closed neighborhood department stores. On the breakfast side, the menu was Dinkel’s Day; I felt the irony.

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

The guy behind me in line went to talk to the WTTW team. “He’s in the set,” his friend said. A few minutes later, the crew came and did a brief interview with them. He was a regular at Dinkel’s; she was a first timer and had an armful of prepackaged items.

My mission was to buy a stollen for my sister’s freezer and a box of gingerbread cookies for my brother’s birthday in California. No ginger on the display table. When I finally reached the counter, I asked the receptionist if there were any more gingerbread cookies in the back. Unfortunately, no more. After an hour and ten minutes I paid for the stollen plus my chocolate donut. I’ll be back for the ginger snaps in a few days…and I’ll be queuing for the last time.

The Dinkel Bakery was founded in 1922 by Joseph R. Dinkel, a Bavarian immigrant from a family of master bakers. Joseph did all the baking and his wife, Antonie, took care of the customers. Dinkel’s moved to its current location at 3329 N. Lincoln Ave. in 1932. Norman, the son of the founders, started 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 a descendant of a family of bakers in Kansas City. More information about the Dinkel Bakery here.

Merrily Beyreuther is a writer who first lived in Chicago in the 1970s. She returned ten years ago after living in the Mountain West, East Coast, Southwest, and South of the Border. She enjoys reconnecting with all that Chicago has to offer.

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