An unusual order came in to Lawrence Dean’s Bakery in August.
A local teacher and some of her students came to the Wilmette shop with “Happy Retirement” cookies. Bakery owners Larry and Vicky Blanas thought it was odd that a teacher would retire this early in the school year.
“She said, ‘no, the cookies are for you,'” Vicky Blanas said. “It’s things like that that have made this last week so hard.”
“It’s been a really emotional last week.”
The Blanases are retiring and closing the doors to Lawrence Deans, which they opened in 2011 at the corner of Green Bay Road and Central Avenue.
Larry Blanas said the couple was looking to retire ever since the pandemic began and finally found the right time.
In their final week of in-shop service, the couple has received cards, gifts and even a dinner invitation, exemplifying the impact the small business has had on the community. The shop’s closing announcement on social media drew plenty of reaction and comments.
“Larry and Vicky, Thank YOU for being a beacon in the community,” wrote Jennifer Amundson Nash on Facebook. “You were more then a shop you were friends to my family. I truly will miss you and all your yummy treats. I cannot imagine your not being here but hope you remain in the community. I thank you for the countless birthday treats, teacher gifts, PTA goodies, hostess yummies and most important friendship.”
Larry Blanas enjoyed baking but got serious about it in the early 2000s after reading a recipe for biscotti in the Sunday newspaper. By 2006, he and Vicky — both professionals in other fields — were selling the treats at the Northfield Farmers Market and their business kept growing.
Five years later, they took a leap and shopped for a storefront, finding the right location at 637 Green Bay Road in Wilmette. Soon, they were full-time bakers and culinary artists, making homemade and handcrafted muffins, cookies, brownies and, of course, biscotti.
The pandemic’s onset gave Larry and Vicky a possible way out, but their homemade cookie-decorating kits began flying off the shelves. They kept at it until another opportunity came along in 2022, when they heard the building was for sale.
Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman told The Record that the village is aware the property’s owner is looking to sell the building and it has prospective buyers; however, “we are not aware of a final agreement.”
Larry and Vicky Blanas closed up on Sept. 2 and will be out of the space entirely by the end of the month. They said they are still clearing out the shop and looking for buyers for everything from equipment to ingredients to, potentially, the business itself. For more information, call (847) 913-5089 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bakery isn’t the only storefront closing in the building. Wilmette Pet Center announced via social media that it will also close in early October, citing the health of owner Dave Cozzolino and redevelopment along Green Bay Road.
A longtime employee of Wilmette Pet, Cozzolino took over the shop, which has been in business for 78 years, in 2007. Cozzolino was diagnosed with ALS in 2021 and uses an electric wheelchair to better his mobility, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up by his sister, Cindy Seehusen. The digital fundraiser has collected $30,275 toward a goal of purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
“Our wish, our goal for Dave is that we can give Dave as much independence as possible for as long as possible by giving him a vehicle that will assist him in visiting family, doctors, friends, and support groups, or as simple as being able to take a drive with Ken to enjoy the outdoors or anything else they want to do,” Seehusen wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We want Dave to have a quality of life for as long as possible.”
Currently Wilmette Pet is hosting a sale to help liquidate its merchandise, and a number of pets need homes, a Facebook post from Cozzolino says.
In his message, Cozzolino said he is closing Wilmette Pet with a “heavy heart.”
“My love of helping pets and their people has filled my heart with fond memories,” he wrote. “I feel great gratitude to every person and staff member that has walked through our door. You all shaped me into the person I am today. Wilmette is a wonderful family community and has been an amazing place to have a small business. Getting to know you and your family has been an honor and a privilege.”
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