After years of preparing pastries for friends or to sell at farmers markets, Jennifer Sandeen decided to take the plunge.
In late August, she opened The Great Sandeenie, a shop in the Downers Grove Metra station where she sells her baked goods.
“This is my artistic outlet,” Sandeen said. “When my daughter was born, I started baking birthday cakes. People started saying ‘Hey, if you bake me one, I’ll pay you.’
“It stayed low-key for a very long time. I’d been doing it for 15 years,” said Sandeen, who works as a sleep technologist for two medical groups.
Sandeen, 48, of Hanover Park, is low-key no more.
Her shop is open seven days a week and her oven at home is kept busy.
“It’s early, but we’re doing OK. We’re making enough for payroll and rent. It’s not a huge profit, but a lot of people don’t know we’re in here,” she said recently.
The shop’s name is a play on her last name and “The Great Santini,” a 1979 movie starring Robert Duvall, she said.
Daughter Jessica, 19, a College of DuPage student, is one of three employees.
“I don’t see her much because she’s gone 95% of the day, so when I see her, it’s fun,” Jessica said of working with her mother.
Sandeen has no oven in the train station. Instead, she and Jessica bake goodies at home and bring them to the station.
“It’s a lot of work. I have just the one oven. It takes a lot of time to get stuff done,” she said.
One of her specialties are cake pops, which is vanilla, chocolate or red velvet cake in a tiny ice cream cone. Cake
tacos also are popular.
“It’s a ring of cake surrounded by a chocolate shell. And then in the middle we’ve done butter cream, peanut butter filling, whatever the case may be. ... They’re very popular and sell quickly,” Sandeen said.
Cookies, croissants and macaroons also are in the mix.
If you are an early riser, The Great Sandeenie is the place for you. It opens at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, the perfect spot for commuters to grab a snack.
“Sometimes they’ll want coffee to go or a Danish or a muffin or a croissant,” Sandeen said. “We also get people who work [in] downtown [Downers Grove] and the seniors who are out and about.”
Some customers are students or teachers from Downers Grove North High School, Jessica said. Moms with children in strollers have been known to visit, Sandeen said.
The big rush is just before 8 a.m., Jessica said.
The business fills a space that formerly was home to two coffee shops in previous years. The second fell victim to the pandemic and closed in 2021, Sandeen said. She pays rent to the village of Downers Grove.
“We find it tight, but it’s a place to start,” she said.
“I don’t want to work too big too fast and fall on my face. It’s maybe 250 square feet. We have to stockpile things. We bought shelving. We’re making the best of it,” Sandeen said.
As if on cue, a customer stopped in for his first visit.
Julius Hope of Chicago strolled up to the counter about 5 p.m. and ordered a coffee with a dash of French vanilla to go for $3.24 before he caught a train to the city.
Hope said he liked the convenience of a shop located inside the train station.
Moments later, another customer made her first visit.
Cecilia Siragusa of Downers Grove ordered an iced coffee for her train ride to attend a bachelorette party on a Friday night in Chicago.
After noticing baked goods are available, Siragusa said: “That’s good to know. I’m sure I’ll be ordering from you guys soon.”
Sandeen was all smiles hearing that.
The Great Sandeenie is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.the-great-sandeenie.