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Catalog Number 2015.033.001
Object Name Recording
Scope & Content Oral history interview of Kenneth (Ken) and Kathy Jarosch.

Interviewed by Sandy Denninger curator of the Schuette-Biermann Farmhouse Museum and Kelly Carver a summer intern from Northern Illinois University on July 23, 2009. The interview was conducted at the Jarosch Bakery, 35 Arlington Heights Rd., Elk Grove Village. Interview length 117m 33 sec. Collection includes audio recording and transcript.

Collection Elk Grove Historical Museum
Notes Ken & Kathy Jarosch, July 23, 2009 Part I

00:00:00 Introduction. Sandy Denninger and intern Kelly Carver conducting the interview at the museum. Jarosch Bakery located at Elk Woods Plaza, originally known Park 'N Shop.

00:00:46 Basic overview of Jarosch. Ken's paternal grandfather came from Germany. That part is now Poland but ethnically the family is German. Most interesting thing about the name is that no one knows how to pronounce.

00:04:22 Immigration of George Jarosch in 1919. Conflicting information. However, it is known that he made several trips back and forth. George's wife was Kathe Fischer who came over in 1926. They knew each other in Germany. Helen Werk has the genealogy. She is a daughter of Kathe & George.

00:09:28 Bakery in Germany. Great Grandparents. Knows little, but was a bread bakery rather than pastries and desserts.

00:11:38 Grandparents recollection of lives in the bakery. Ken remembers sugar shortage during WWII they did whatever they could to get it. Sometimes even dealing in black market. Originally lived above the bakery and then moved to a house in Skokie. They were strict and tough people but considerate and helped out at Elk Grove bakery even after no longer actively working it. Grandpa always said "God gave you two hands, you use both of them." He was an excellent baker-knew the trade.

00:16:28 Bakery on Diversey opens and move to Skokie. Ken doesn't know those dates but his Aunt Helen should since she was living with her parents at the time. There were a few different locations after that. Grandfather sold the business to Ken's uncle about 1954. Grandpa was completely out of the bakery business for a while and Ken's dad worked for another bakery and then in 1959 came to Elk Grove. Grandpa and Ken's dad opened the Elk Grove bakery together.

00:18:20 Ken's father in Korean War. He actually was in Korea near frontlines. Worked as a baker, Army style feeding troops. Occasionally a decorated cake was baked for an officer's birthday or something.

00:20:24 Ken's childhood memories in bakery. This was the center of Elk Grove at the time. Dad made donut holes and sold them at carnivals held in parking lot. During high school the carnivals were held at the Queen of the Rosary parking lot. Then carnival was dropped until RotaryFest started up. There were the Fourth of July and Peony parades held right on Arlington Heights Road. Watched his dad decorate cakes at the bakery. During blizzard of '67 people walked to the bakery to get bread. At age 10 Ken actually started working at the bakery. His father would say, "You can't sell it from the back. You've got to get it to the front."

00:29:01 Christmas parties. Held at Jarosch home. Couldn't fit everyone in so there'd be a men's party and and women's party. Then eventually moved the parties to the Maitre d' Restaurant.

00:29:50 Picnics. Actually hosted by bakery organizations rather than Jarosch Bakery. Picnics in Busse Woods allowed bakers from Chicago to come out to the "wilderness" and get away from it all. Picnics were also held in the forest preserve in Des Plaines. Lots of people, lots of games and activities.

00:32:46 The Bakers Dozen. Organization. Purpose is to share ideas, help each other solve problems and have fun. Currently only eleven members. One of the biggest issues is what does the customer want for a product during changing times. Bakers call recipes formulas and the different bakers often use the same formulas but add a little tweaking to make their product different from others.

00:42:01 Kathy. She's from Algonquin originally. She and Ken met at Valparaiso University. Both had engineering degrees. They married both worked as engineers at McDonnell Douglas. Family came along. She wanted to stay at home with kids, Ken still had interest in baking. This was all in St. Louis where they were working. Home was still up here so decision was made to quit jobs and come back. Not an easy decision. But it's very gratifying to own your own business and start the day with nothing, produce a product and then it's gone at the end of the day.

00:49:46 If Ken and Kathy had not made the decision to give up engineering and return home to bake, who would have taken over the Jarosch Bakery? There was no plan and no one knew Ken's father would die 4 years later. They came back at the very end of 1989. Father passed away in April of 1994. Had they not returned when they did and father had died, the business probably would have been sold because siblings were not trained or in a position to just hop in and take over. The bakery was physically half the size at that time.

00:51:56 Changes. Biggest was adding the computer to take and track orders especially at Christmas time. This was about 1997. They did have some computers prior to then but not to the extent of using them for taking orders. There was a national bakers convention in Chicago in 1997 and Jarosch would be one of the bakeries to be toured. Ken wanted to be able to show off computer system and how beneficial it could be.

00:54:05 Owners. Ken is technically the owner and President, Kathy is Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer. For work they do have organized positions for manager of the bakers, manager of cake decorators, store personnel. Bakery is open 12 hours per day, 6 days a week, but it is essentially occupied 24 hours a day because baking occurs also at night. Total of roughly 50 employees. About 20 are full-time. At holiday times often hire additional staff.

00:57:52 Another change. Packing cookies at Christmas. Now a science.

Part II

00:00:00 Continues with packing of Christmas cookies. Described as a stationary conveyor belt. Cookies don't move but people do as the process goes on. Ken's dad was a baker first and then ran the business. Ken started out that way but now Ken lets his good bakers do the bulk of the baking and spends his time running the business. The computer helps tremendously in reducing errors. They also have a machine that now drops the cookies onto the sheet instead of having to do that by hand.

00:05:48 Long line of bakers. Standards used for excellence. They stick to the same formulas so that people coming back years later say the products taste just as they remembered them. If one product isn't selling the decision is made to either drop it or determine what is wrong with it and try again. If something is OK, how do we make it better.

00:08:23 Cookie machine. Lots of thought went into the decision. Didn't want to change formula which is often requied. Took many years before deciding to purchase it. Did want to prevent tunnel carpal issues. However, still make a lot of cookies by hand.

00:12:32 Products that were scratched. Butterscotch pecan coffee cake. Marzapan coffee cake. Blueberry strip. Not all are scratched, some they just stop making. If no one complains, it was a good decision. He's tried to discontinued muffins but it seems a big order comes in whenever he does. They don't make the giant muffins that Panera, etc. make-don't have the equipment for those.

00:15:39 New product: breakfast soufflé.

00:16:49 Family tradition recipes. Just really aren't any old family recipes. They've been borrowed from books, etc. and tweaked over the years. Nothing original.

00:19:26 Home baking. Essentially no baking was done at home while growing up or now. Lots of cooking at home, but little baking. Occasionally Kathy does and they decide to adapt it for the bakery. Homemade at home is always considered special.

00:21:59 Awards. Have some plaques on the wall for Best Cookies, etc. Won a Channel 2 award. Decorator has won awards. Also community service awards. Many times the stories people tell them are very rewarding-serve as awards to them.

00:29:17 Changes. Had done some expanding. Considered more but decided no more at this location. Mail order or internet sales could be something but really additional staff and space would be needed for that. Regular retail sales is fine right now.

00:35:04 Favorite bakery items. Yellow and devil's food cake dough with apricot and fudge filling topped with buttercream frosting. Custard bismarcks. Problem is-too many good products!

00:36:55 Vacations. Made Monopoly cake for village's anniversary one time. Close the bakery for a couple of weeks every July. All employees take their vacations then. Old tradition for bakeries. Also allows for major repairs during that time. They also are closed on Sundays. Church is very important to them. They are member of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Elk Grove. Ken's dad would record a message on their answering machine during vacations. He would sing some song and sing "We're closed" in the song. Family was musical.

00:47:15 Children. Matthew. Ben and Becky.

00:49:20 Uniforms. Originally dresses, then smocks, then kind of let things go and now the current uniforms. Employees came up with design for t-shirts the bakery's anniversary. It's important that the uniforms have uniformity. Otherwise it's sloppy looking.

00:53:54 Original bakery décor, paint colors. Dark blue with flower print wallpaper. Uniforms were originally blue. Floor in the 1970s was orange. Had 3 fiberglass chairs for customers to sit on-now have benches. Originally a metal ceiling.

00:56:00 Packaging. Insignia for Jarsoch was originally blue, then brown-gold, now burnt red. Originally script wasn't even consistent, now it is.

00:58:55 End of interview.
Source Elk Grove Historical Museum