Bridgeport Bakery reopens in time for Paczki Day, new ownership brings back original staff and recipes

CHICAGO (WLS) -- At midnight on Fat Tuesday, Bridgeport Bakery already had a line out the door waiting for orders of fresh Paczki. Bridgeport Bakery is a neighborhood institution, and it's become one of the city's most popular spots for the annual Paczki Day.

"We started baking around 9 p.m. last night," said baker Ron Pavelka, who was still rolling dough at 10 a.m. for long lines of customers.

Chicagoans have made a city-wide tradition of Paczki Day, when they stuff themselves with stuffed Polish pastries before the start of Lent.

The legendary South Side bakery temporarily closed when Pavelka had a stroke in September 2019, forcing him to step away from the business he'd run for 47 years.

New owner Can Lao purchased the building and business from Pavelka several months ago. He reopened Bridgeport Bakery with the same traditions and recipes that locals have loved for years.

Lao even rehired most of the original staff - all except those who retired.

"I'm so grateful that a lot of old employees are coming back," Lao said. "They are teaching me actually how to run this business."

Pavelka now works alongside Lao as his business and baking mentor.

"I took it over for 47 years, and the previous owner had it for another 42 years," Pavelka said. "Like it or not, you're gonna stick around for a while, and I hope Can does too."
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