Riverside was ready when Fiore Bakery opened at 25 Forest Ave. last week. Last Thursday, owner Jori Jerabek, who had been renovating the former dance studio into a full-blown bakery since February, was still processing the welcome the business received since opening its doors on June 24.
“It’s been overwhelming, but in a wonderful way,” said Jerabek, taking a short break while sitting at one of the several small tables for customers inside the store. As she sat there, customers — many of them moms with kids — filed through the door to ponder the display cases, filled with cupcakes, cannoli, cookies, individually wrapped mini-coffeecakes, pies, cakes, éclairs and kolacky.
“We didn’t expect this,” Jerabek said. “It’s like a tsunami.”
Jerabek relocated Fiore to Riverside from Oakbrook Terrace, where the bakery developed a strong corporate following. While there was a retail operation, it was much smaller.
Accompanying her to Riverside is executive chef Jen Palumbo, who has worked alongside Jerabek for the past four years.
“It’s great to see it come together,” Palumbo said. “It’s great to have customer interaction.”
While Fiore has maintained its corporate catering business, Riverside has allowed Jerabek to serve customers face-to-face instead of just over the phone, which was the vast majority of Fiore’s business in the past.
“There’s not one thing that’s similar,” Jerabek said of the difference between working in a highly corporate area and downtown Riverside. “In Oak Brook, there wasn’t a whole lot of personal contact. The people here are lovely. The interaction with the public here, it’s really heartfelt.
“It’s like every day I’m meeting friends. I’m already developing relationships.”
But it has taken quite a while to get to this point. Build-out took a bit longer than Jerabek initially expected but, in retrospect, she says she’s not surprised.
“Half the battle was that this was a blank slate,” said Jerabek. “In essence, it was new construction in an old building.”
That meant the electric service and gas service needed to be upgraded to accommodate the new full kitchen. Jerabek had to appear before the Riverside Preservation Commission to get approval for a vent on the exterior of the building, which is designated a local landmark. There was also an appearance before the Planning and Zoning Commission related to signage. She also had to put in a bathroom to comply with village rules about customer seating.
“We added walls and extra rooms,” Jerabek said.
In addition to the baked goods, Fiore sells smoothies and quick, savory to-go items, such as sandwiches and soups. Prior to opening the business, Jerabek said she noticed there really wasn’t a place where you could grab a quick sandwich downtown, so she wanted her business to fill that need.
She also said she visited other businesses, such as Mollie’s (which is next door on Forest Avenue) and Chew Chew to make sure her offerings wouldn’t be overlapping theirs.
“I want to be very respectful to my neighbors,” she said. “I think we’ll fit in well; we’re really like this close-knit group.”
Jerabek hasn’t set the business’ hours definitively yet. For now, it’s open Tuesday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.