In a lemons-to-lemonade scenario, the sister duo behind Spilt Milk Pastry is moving their Oak Park bakery to a new location at 811 South Blvd. with support from the community.
A frozen drainpipe in the bakery’s HVAC system backed up into the furnace causing extensive water damage to the property, at 103 S. Oak Park Ave. on Feb. 17, leaving Meg and Molly Svec without a home for their business. The co-owners knew a move to a larger space would be necessary in the future, but the unexpected closure of their compact storefront inspired them to speed up their expansion timeline.
“We are optimists, and we were not going to let this get us down,” said Meg Svec. “The water damage was extensive, and it was unclear if we would ever be able to open in that location again. We took this as an opportunity to grow and we are excited to remain in the Hemmingway District. It has been our home for five years.”
The new location, the former home of Hit it Fitness, is a triple storefront. The added space will allow the sisters to start an e-commerce business and more than double their production of artisan pies, cookies, brownies and quiches. Customers will be able to observe Spilt Milk bakers in action through windows facing South Blvd. and the dining room and expanded retail space will lead to an outdoor patio. The Svec sisters are eager to have an outdoor dining area behind the building and intend to use the space as a community garden and gathering space.
“We have felt very supported by Cam Davis, Steve Cutaia and everyone at the Village of Oak Park,” said Meg Svec. “They have been out here and making sure we can get up and running as quickly as possible.”
Renovations to the property are already underway and will include the installation of new flooring, updates to the plumbing and electrical systems, and the addition of new exterior signage. New kitchen equipment, including new ovens, will need to be purchased as well. The sisters also need to replace a large Hobart mixer that was mistakenly hauled away with junk from the flooded property — they have opted to laugh rather than cry about the loss.
While the sisters had some savings to put toward the move, they appealed to the community to ask for help to ease the financial strain of the unexpected move. They started an Indiegogo campaign and have already raised nearly $39, 000. The campaign is still accepting donations.
“It was crazy to see the donations start coming in,” said Molly Svec. “People know we don’t really want to ask for help, but we need it. I was in tears.”
In the wake of the flood Spilt Milk also hosted a duo of bakery pop ups at River Forest Kitchen, 349 Ashland Ave. in River Forest, to use up product and keep their staff on payroll. The Svec sisters noted the sudden closure put their staff of six in a “tough spot,” but the successful pop ups not only helped use up products, but more importantly they allowed them to pay their staff in full.
“It is meaningful that Cheryl [Knecht-Muñoz] and the community were so warm and welcoming to us,” said Molly Svec.
“Meg and Molly are pillars in our local food community and everyone at River Forest Kitchen was happy to jump in to offer them a place to bake and host their pop-ups,” said Cheryl Knecht-Muñoz, owner of Sugar Beet School House and River Forest Kitchens. “Our tenants made fridge and freezer space and my team was happy to change schedules to accommodate them. We are thrilled that our greater community is supporting them by buying up their amazing pies and other goodies each weekend.”
Spilt Milk’s new location is expected to open in early April.
Molly has already planted sunflower seeds in the garden.