Arden Kruger made a bet that most people wouldn’t make. The 57-year-old had a stable job working as a nurse for 35 years.
But Kruger traded good income and stability to open Sweety Pies in downtown Skokie, despite having little experience as a business owner or baker. She bet on herself and her family's future, in hopes of improving their lives.
“It was very scary to stop making good money,” Kruger said. “But I got burnt out working as a nurse and it wasn’t my passion.”
After mulling over the decision with her husband for about 10 years, Kruger left her job and began working at a bakery in Evanston for several months. Soon after, Kruger and her family found a spot at 8042 Lincoln Ave. in downtown Skokie for their own bakery.
"People can spend five dollars and get a sweet. People always have birthdays and celebrations – we don’t stop living."
But Kruger also opened her bakery during the peak of the recession – Nov. 7, 2007.
"I never loved my job as a nurse and I asked myself: What do I have to lose? I wasn’t going to lose my life if I failed," she said. "So we went for it.
“It was like the whole world crashed,” she said referring to the recession. “We started out slow, and business just gradually went up, up, up. We’re in our fifth year now.”
There are more than 27 million small businesses in America. Of those, 49 percent will fail within the first five years. Only 31 percent will survive for more than seven years, according to Get Busy Media, an online source for local business statistics.
Exactly a year ago this day, Kruger got a phone call that would change her business forever. It was Valentine’s Day and WGN wanted to feature the bakery on Chicago’s Best.
“[WGN] came out the following day and everything was filmed," she said. "It aired three weeks later."
After WGN’s piece ran, business went up, and Sweety Pies began seeing customers from all walks of life, and all over the map – from Indiana to Rockford and even New Jersey.
“It was a blessing,” she added. “Everything changed after that.”
So where did Kruger learn all her fabulous baking recipes?
"We lived on a farm in Roscoe, [Ill.] for about 10 years," Kruger said. "My husband's from that area and I learned a lot about baking from my mother-in-law. A lot of recipes are family recipes."
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