How the Bloom + Bread boutique brings a touch of Southern culture to Geneva


Family recipes are often labeled “secret”, which means that only mom or grandma knew how to make a particular dish but passed on their knowledge to others.

When these recipes fell into the “top secret” category, it was really special and probably no one had ever written down the recipe.

Catherine Sheehan of St. Charles knows this scenario well, crediting an “oral historical recipe” as the reason why the cookies she makes at her new Bloom + Bread store at The Berry House in Geneva are “so awesome.”

After a few years of operating what she calls a “southern business” in various locations as pop-up stores in empty retail spaces, Sheehan found the permanent setting she wanted to sell her flower arrangements. , its southern market products and its baked goods.

Bloom + Bread has been open for just over a month on the second floor of The Berry House, across from El Molcajete restaurant. As soon as Sheehan begins a relationship with a shared kitchen in Sycamore on Nov. 1, she plans to have the store more regularly stocked with a southern flair.

“It’s really a family table thing,” said Sheehan, a former Kane County attorney. “I spent a lot of time in South Georgia, and what I found so charming and charming about the culture there was that everyone gathered at the table, whether it was at someone, in a church or a public office.”


Sheehan is quick to point out that Bloom + Bread, at its core, is a bakery. “People love our cookies, and it’s a recipe I learned when I was a member of a women’s auxiliary group in Georgia,” she said. “This older lady in the group liked me, and she taught me the recipe.”

From left, Bloom + Bread employee Paige Barter and owner Catherine Sheehan show off some of the Christmas decorations available at the store at The Berry House in Geneva.
– Courtesy of Dave Heun

But the transfer of the cookie recipe came with a caveat. “She said to me, it’s very special, and I’m going to share the recipe with you, and you can teach it to your kids and others if you want, but don’t write it down,” she said. noted Sheehan. “A lot of it is about exact measurements, but a lot of it is about feeling, and you have to like bread.

“And it’s all up there,” she said, pointing her head.

Sheehan wants to be an entrepreneur who “leads with a social conscience, in that we don’t have to portray ourselves as the perfect families you see on social media. We can be diverse without a super conservative narrative in our food preparations. and floral pattern.”

In many ways, Sheehan has already come a long way to reach this phase of her Bloom + Bread dream.

After practicing law in Kane County, she became very ill and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about five years ago. She quit law to work at nonprofits while suffering a setback with her treatment regimen.

“I was prescribed the best medicine for bipolar, but one in a million people have a rare genetic response, and I was the one,” she said. “They had to take me off of that and start new meds, and that was pretty tough.”

She was laid off from a fundraising job at the Aurora Food Pantry when the pandemic hit. Instead, she began to consider advancing the floral decorating and baked goods she sold at Campton Hills Farmers’ Markets.

“The next thing I knew was we waited 45 minutes for people who wanted cookies and flowers, and it just grew from there,” Sheehan added. “And our puddings are also very popular.”

Sheehan senses a positive trend with six employees and the new kitchen layouts.

Her pop-up store won a competition at the Geneva Commons earlier this year to win retail space in the Randall Road outdoor mall, but she declined because she wanted her southern business to start with a vibe of small town and downtown. Third Street in Geneva fits this bill.

Paige Barter, a Batavia High School junior who worked with Sheehan last year, sums up the Bloom + Bread mission well.

“People with southern roots contact us and are happy to see that we have products they know and can’t find anywhere else, but most of our customers haven’t lived in the south. “, Barter said.

“We want to make a point of acknowledging the roots of southern culture here,” Barter said, adding that the cookbooks and literature in the store emphasize those roots.

The store is open Thursday through Sunday, but online orders are available. Sheehan plans to add more days as more customers learn about the operation, which also includes monthly classes.

At some point, Sheehan would like to see her business explode into a grand setting for a sit-down restaurant, a full market space, and a center for weddings and special events.

“I don’t want to be the star of the show,” Sheehan pointed out. “I want my whole team to be involved and recognized.”

Farewell to a favorite

About 10 years ago, while working on an article on banking technology, I interviewed a banker from the UK over lunch at Chianti’s Ristorante in Geneva. This man came from Chicago to meet me at the popular 201 S. Third Street restaurant.

He later said the restaurant was as good as any he had dined at on his travels. That was good to hear, because Chianti has always been one of our favorites.

But more recently you could tell the restaurant was struggling a bit with staff and service. Thus, it is not surprising that its doors have closed recently.

Mandrake Small Plates + Libations restaurant in Yorkville has revealed it will soon be opening in the Chianti building. Social media reviews have been overwhelmingly positive for Mandrake.

A retirement party was recently held for Ellen Huxtable of Batavia, a longtime community volunteer and small business consultant.

A retirement party was recently held for Ellen Huxtable of Batavia, a longtime community volunteer and small business consultant.
– Courtesy of Batavia Congregational Church

A farewell cake for Ellen

One of the most interesting interviews I had for the column this year was talking to Batavia’s Ellen Huxtable about her family’s experiences in a Japanese detention camp during World War II. Huxtable intends to spend more time telling this story.

She announced her intention to retire at the end of the year after more than two decades of helping small businesses and entrepreneurs pursue their dreams through group sessions at the Batavia Congregational Church.

Her friends and followers at church threw a retirement party for her last week, complete with a farewell cake.

Sam gets his park

Last week, the Geneva Park District honored one of its former board members and biggest supporters, by dedicating the South Street ball diamonds and skate park to Sam Hill Park.

Many friends and colleagues from the Park District and City Hall came to witness the groundbreaking ceremonies. Many of them are quick to point out that Hill, a longtime member of the park’s board of directors and of Geneva’s city council, who died on July 5, probably had something to do with the great success of his well- loved Fighting Illini on the grill.

His son, Jeff Hill, really hit the mark when he recounted how Sam, struggling with memory loss, still went to that same park to play with his grandkids two years ago.

“He not only served on the park’s board and helped promote park district events, but he really loved the parks and loved being there,” Jeff said.

History and fun at the Villa

Kids ages 8-13 can get a quick history lesson plus an evening of games, snacks and a fun movie when Fox Valley Preservation Partners hosts a night at the Villa from 6-10:30 p.m. on Friday 1st. november. 11.

Anyone who hasn’t visited the Fabyan Villa Museum in Geneva’s Fabyan Forest Reserve may want to take this opportunity to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1907 home while their children learn about the family and meet the Fabyan mummy and other interesting objects.

The film “Night at the Museum” will close the evening.

Tickets are $15 per child but are free for an adult in attendance. Participants should bring a pillow and blanket for comfort on the floor. A flashlight to help you return to the parking lot is also suggested.

Popcorn, cookies, water and juice will be available, but participants can also bring snacks.

Tickets are available at

The Big Bands live on

It sounds like a great musical program and one that keeps the excitement and history of the Big Band era alive in our young musicians.

The Fox Valley Music Foundation is partnering with the Pete Ellman Big Band to offer local students the opportunity to perform for a live audience at The Venue in downtown Aurora.

Students at St. Charles North High School are scheduled to perform at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1, while West Aurora High School is scheduled to perform at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 22.

The Big Band Residency Series takes place on Tuesdays and tickets are $5. The doors to the show open half an hour before show time and the student show opens the show.

Any music lover who hasn’t visited The Venue at 21 S. Broadway should. It has become a great place to listen to live music. Tickets are available at

About those Circus Peanuts

Candy has stood the test of time in my life. Even as an old person, I like most of the same sweets that I consumed in my youth.

But when sends out the results of its poll, an annual list of the best and worst Halloween candies, it makes me wonder why some rank so poorly. Maybe it has more to do with what’s good in a kid’s candy bag or plastic pumpkin, but looks and taste do play a part.

As such, I admit to loving Circus Peanuts, those orange-colored sugar concoctions that look like circus peanuts. Still, they’ve earned the #1 Worst Halloween Candy spot.

You won’t hear me question the best Halloween candy in the poll. I’ve always loved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Still, my favorite would be Kit-Kats. They are a lovely chocolate treat.

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