MORRISON – Shelli Eng remembers when, as a child, she would bake alongside her grandmother.
The treats they made did not come from a cookbook; her grandma had the recipes in her head. No need for measuring cups from the store; they used soup cans that had been cut down and fashioned as measuring cups.
Eng, who throughout the years continued to use what her grandma taught her, now is getting ready to utilize those baking skills on a much larger scale. On Dec. 15, she will open the doors to her new business, The Bread Lady at Donnybrook Corner, in downtown Morrison.
A red-brick building at the corner of Main and Base streets, the Donnybrook building was purchased eight years ago by Pete Harkness of Sterling. Much of the structure’s main floor had been renovated by its previous owner when it was an Irish pub. The upstairs has been remodeled into two furnished executive lofts. One is leased to a Sterling company; the other is an Airbnb, which is utilized by people near and far.
On Thursday, the polished wooden floors on the main floor were gleaming, display cases shining and the chairs throughout decked with Santa hats. A nook with tables has an open view of Main Street. That nook, a large main room with a counter and tables and retail area, and another adjacent room, when combined, have seating for 80 people.
“It’s just a spectacular building,” Harkness said.
Also on Thursday, Harkness put the finishing touch on the building by placing a turret on its northeast corner. Harkness knows there was one on the building years ago, but it had been removed. The building’s previous owner had fabricated a turret to sit atop the corner entrance, but it instead had remained sitting on top of a neighboring business’s roof. Around 1:30 p.m., Harkness was on hand to help set that turret in place on the Donnybrook building. A crane lifted the turret from the neighboring building to Donnybrook’s corner entrance and carefully set it in its new place.
As Harkness renovated the building over the past several years, Eng, of Erie, had a dream to a run a bakery at the location. She finally got the chance to move forward with that idea in February. Since then, she has been busy getting the building up to code and completing any needed repairs.
Now, just a week from her grand opening, she said the road to opening her own bakery began with learning from her grandmother. When Eng’s daughter was a small child, Eng baked and canned food to provide her daughter, who had been diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis and had seizures, with as clean a diet as possible.
Later, when Eng was baking and selling her goods as a cottage baker, she was on the front end of Illinois’ discussion about cottage bakery laws. She now is a member of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and has helped to shape legislation governing cottage baking rules, with plans to continue with that work and farm-to-table legislation.
“I’m hoping to be more farm-to-table than food-distributor-to-table, that’s important to me,” she said. “It’s going to be a little of a challenge, Illinois’ laws are tough on that. But I’m part of the Alliance that helped to write some of the laws.”
“We got the cottage law changed appropriately; it took me three years but we got it right, as right as we could,” she said. “Farm-to-table is a new issue, where we’re trying to get fresh food into schools, and there are grants out there people don’t know about. I’m a part of that so I know the caliber, the reason you should want to do that more.”
“We live in farm country,” she said. “We should celebrate our farmers, direct to the table.”
Her menu will include baked items, coffee, and grab-and-go lunches. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except Monday to start, with an expansion of hours expected early next year, she said.