It’s a story that could probably only happen in the era of social media and a global pandemic. And in Kenosha.
When Anne Benson, owner of Kenosha’s iconic Oliver’s Bakery recently was informed that her application for a bit of financial relief under the Paycheck Protection Program had been declined (and wouldn’t be happening any time soon), she became deeply concerned for the future of her business and the impact on her employees.
As many of us do in the social media era, she took to her personal Facebook page. In her case, during the early hours on a Friday.
“(I) was in a panic because I had to cut (my employees’) hours and was making barely enough to cover expenses,” Benson said in an interview with the Kenosha News. “I went to bed (Thursday) with that on my mind, thinking ‘Oh my gosh what am I going to do?’”
While Benson didn’t mention the bakery by name, her friends understood full well the stress on the business when they read her post. “I never mentioned Oliver’s, I never said we were closing, I was just in fear of what was to come. I was worried about my employees, I was worried about my son, I was worried about my business,” Benson said.
And, as often the case with a small item on social media, a personal post on a Facebook page in the wee hours of the morning became a full-blown community cause by sunup.
Benson’s post apparently struck a nerve with friends and fans of the bakery. And the community. By the time she opened the bakery doors Friday morning, customers were lined up down the block to purchase bakery goods.
“Friday I came into work and it was like people just started coming in, ‘Oh I saw Facebook, are you closing?’’ Benson told the Kenosha News. “I never said I was closing, I just said I was struggling, like every other small business in this town.”
But that’s the way Kenosha reacts. We cherish our institutions, and Oliver’s is definitely that. We tend to treat each other as family in most cases. From the thousands of customers who come through the doors every year for donuts, cakes and pastries, to the generations of families that have sliced into the bakery’s unequaled wedding cakes, Kenosha was not about to let go of another beloved institution.
Throughout the day that Friday, dozens of messages of concern popped up on Oliver’s Facebook page. By the end of the day, there were two Facebook crowd-funding pages dedicated to saving the bakery.
Oliver’s has been a purveyor of pastries, bread and cakes since 1950. Benson, who has worked at the Roosevelt Road bakery for 42 years, became the owner in 2013.
If Oliver’s were to ever close, it would be a blow to the Kenosha community; and not just for the loss of their pastries, sweets and cakes. Oliver’s has sold fish and shrimp on Fridays for decades. Deep fried white fish and shrimp are available every Friday starting around 8:30 a.m. Call ahead!