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Seven bakers serve up treats at Sweet Natalie’s in Geneva

GENEVA – A “confection collection” has opened in Geneva and features homemade desserts from seven bakers who share kitchen space.

Ilene Keivel hatched the idea in September and officially opened Sweet Natalie’s Dec. 23 in the lower level of the Charles B. Wells House at 228 S. Third St. in Geneva. The shop is named after her 5-year-old daughter, Natalie.

Keivel said she wanted to share her love of baking with others. Six bakers rent out blocks of time to bake in the shop’s commercial kitchen. There’s one rule: All the bakers have to make something different so they aren’t competing with another.

Keivel said she found the six bakers who are renting space by tapping different churches and farmers markets. She said she interviewed each baker individually and tasted their products to make sure it was the right fit. Keivel said there’s room for more tenants.

The tenants include Auntie Debbie’s Delites & More, which sells “waist-friendly” desserts; A Bite of Heaven, which sells cheesecakes and brownies; Piece of Cake, which sells custom cakes; The Sweet Escape, which sells miniature desserts; and The Sweet Rhino, which sells cupcakes and cinnamon rolls.

Keivel’s shop is called One Smart Cookie Chicago, where she specializes in decorated and gourmet cookies, with flavors such as sea salt and caramel, red velvet and peanut butter.

Baking hasn’t always been Keivel’s primary trade.

“I used to do physical therapy, and I always wanted to bake,” she said. “I wanted to share the kitchen with people who loved to bake.”

But Keivel isn’t new to the business community. She owned a coffee shop while living in Arizona. She said the idea of a “confection co-op” started a few years ago when incubator kitchens started to spring up. Her concept is similar, and she hopes to expand the co-op to include breakfast foods, coffee and bread in the future.

She said the shop is operated just like any other bakery, only there’s a variety of people who specialize in making each dessert.

“We sell it for them so they don’t have the overhead,” Keivel said.

For now, Sweet Natalie’s is open seven days a week. So far, business has been good.

“The location’s great,” Keivel said. “People are definitely coming in on evenings and weekends.”

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