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Curious City

Sweet Success: How Chicago's Mexican Bakeries Stay Competitive

In some neighborhoods in Chicago, you can stumble onto a bakery simply by following the scent. Take Pilsen, where you’ll find many bakeries clustered around 18th Street, sometimes just a few doors down from one another.

And this got one curious Chicagoan wondering:

In neighborhoods like Pilsen, how do Mexican bakeries stay in business with so much competition?  

It turns out the answer has a lot to do with culture and tradition. Mexicans can’t live without their fresh bread, says Jaime di Paulo, executive director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce.

A bakery is like an anchor to a community. There is probably no Mexican home without pan dulce ,” di Paulo says, referring to the name for sweet Mexican breads and pastries.

That means in neighborhoods with large Mexican-American populations, like Pilsen, there is high demand. But Pilsen is changing, and this is putting pressure on the neighborhood’s bakeries.

So what does it take for these bakeries to survive in this competitive market?  Watch the video below to find out the secret to keeping a steady flow of customers.


Liz Stanton is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. Follow her at @ElizAnnStan.

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