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Mardi Gras came, went and left a Palatine bakery with a problem: too many ingredients for paczki, the traditional Polish doughnuts Americans eat on Fat Tuesday, and not enough customers.
Paczki Day usually helps sales at Spunky Dunkers Donuts for a full month or two, and customers often buy dozens of paczki to take to the office. But during a pandemic when many are working from home and after back-to-back snowstorms, “it was looking a little scary,” said owner Jan Daczewitz.
Daczewitz, who said she wasn’t the most tech-savvy, asked some employees to put out a call on Facebook on Thursday afternoon.
“So, real talk. We need your help,” began the bakery’s post, which was shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook and liked more than 6,000 times on Instagram. The effect was almost immediate.
“I mean, it just blew up,” Daczewitz said.
Lines formed around the store. The bakery doubled its baking shifts from two to four, Daczewitz said. She called in all of the employees she could, even former workers, an estimated six to 10 of whom came in to help out. Some employees stayed to work extra hours.
Since Thursday, the store went through as many as 10,000 baked goods in three days, she estimated, until it ran out of basic doughnut supplies.
“I have fillings, but I have no doughnuts to stuff with the filling,” Daczewitz said. It was unprecedented for the business, which she has co-owned since 1987.
The bakery is usually open 24/7 but Daczewitz said she planned to close Sunday night and reopen at midnight Tuesday after buying more ingredients. The bakery typically only closes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, and even when the pandemic hit Illinois, only limited its overnight hours for a week, according to Daczewitz.
“It’s so amazing to us,” she said. “We knew people liked us, but I had no idea — I had no idea how much people love us. It’s overwhelming. We feel so blessed.”
The line was still curling out the door and around the building Sunday morning, said Elise Gerlach, of Barrington, who stopped by with her 7-year-old daughter after going sledding nearby.
Dominic Giannola, of Arlington Heights, picked up 16 doughnuts after his wife, Deanne, saw the social media posts online. Giannola’s family moved from Palatine a few years ago, he said, “but always liked the local place and figured we’d help out.”
Tori Gammeri, a librarian from Lake Zurich, made the 40-minute round trip Sunday to the store, an old high school haunt, after she saw the posts. The bakery was out of her favorite red velvet doughnuts, but she bought a dozen others, including some jelly-filled doughnuts for her 11-year-old daughter.
“Since the pandemic started like a year ago, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve been in a store, so it was a big deal that we went,” Gammeri said. “We’ve been doing all curbside pickup and delivery for pretty much everything.”
Gammeri, who grew up in the area, said she hadn’t been to the bakery in more than a decade.
She recalled the shop’s “welcoming environment” from her high school days. On Sunday, she came as a married mother of two and enjoyed introducing her daughter to the bakery.
“It was really fun! I told my daughter, ‘I know it’s on Northwest Highway; it’s going to be on your side. … She was watching for it, and when she saw the sign, was like, ‘I see it!’” Gammeri said, laughing. “It was really a cute moment to share.”
The longer drive didn’t matter, Gammeri added. “It felt special to get out and do something, support a small business. And when we saw the community response, it just felt cool to be part of it.”