Aracely's flips things around to keep suburban bakery open during COVID-19 pandemic

CICERO, Ill. (WLS) -- Food shops, restaurants and bakeries have all had to adapt to the pandemic.

Some have made the pivot to delivery and carryout only, while others have had to shut down completely.

Aracely's - a small, family-run bakery with several locations in the suburbs - is hoping that structural changes will allow them to stay open while keeping employees and customers safe.

The Mexican bakery has five locations, including one in Cicero.

Business is down about 35%, but it could be a lot worse.

"When you go in a typical Mexican bakery, you have to grab a tray, some tongs, and you serve, and you open up the cases and you grab your own bread," said owner Sixto Rincon.

That's obviously not an option during a pandemic.

"We flipped our cases around. We leveled them out, so it's like a typical American bakery," he said.

That means full service. You want a donut or a pastry? One of the staff behind the plexi-protected glass will get it for you. Or, have them assemble a few tamales for you, either pork or chicken.

"We've got some grandmas in the back making tamales that are just phenomenal," Rincon said.

"We bake our own bread - our sandwiches are delicious because of our bread," he said.

Those tortas are terrific, made with light bolillo rolls that are crisp outside and feather-light within. You can even have them make a sandwich with a tamale as the filling.

"Everything is handmade, nothing is frozen, it's proofed overnight, it's fermented, gives it flavor," he said.

Conchas come in about a half dozen varieties, and Rincon said even though they've had to make adjustments that might require a slightly longer wait, their customers seem to appreciate the modifications.

"We only allow two people in the store. We ask them to give us a little more time to service them, to keep everybody safe with the social distance. I even have our town Health Department come buying pastries here and said, 'Hey mom, you can go buy there because I know they're watching,'" said Rincon.

The owners said that this full-service setup is not typical in the Mexican bakery culture, however, customers are getting used to it. They plan to have this setup for at least the next year.

While the five locations have changed their hours, they are still open quite early each day, at 4 a.m.

15 W. Harris Ave. La Grange
Villa DuPage Shopping Center, 625 W N Ave, Villa Park
9667 Franklin Ave #6, Franklin Park
5920 Cermak Rd, Cicero
144 N 19th Ave. Melrose Park

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