Anne Aboushousha, left, owner of Sweet Annie's bakery, looks out of the window at its location in Flossmoor. She soon will open a Homewood location. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 29, 2013 9:57AM
Finding the perfect name five years ago for Sweet Annie’s bakery in Flossmoor wasn’t a stretch for owner Anne Aboushousha’s friends.
They suggested the name Sweet Annie’s to reflect not only the bakery products, but Aboushousha’s personality.
“Anne Aboushousha really is sweet. Everybody who knows her, they’re just so in love with her because she’s completely authentic,” said Jennifer Blaeser, Aboushousha’s friend, customer and business associate.
As backing for Blaeser’s opinion, customer after customer heads straight for Aboushousha before placing an order — to laugh and visit with the outgoing businesswoman.
She seems to know everyone by name.
“They start out as strangers and they end up family,” Aboushousha said.
Her love of customer service took root in her teen years when she worked her way up from a dishwasher to a Saturday counter girl at a bakery in her Wisconsin hometown. Aboushousha said her love of greeting and talking to customers made it “the happiest place I ever worked,” and her goal seems to be to duplicate that in her bakery.
That makes it all the more likely that customers will follow Aboushousha as she relocates Sweet Annie’s to 18102 S. Martin Ave. in Homewood. The move is planned for April.
Aboushousha is moving out of necessity. The Homewood site will allow her to “triple our space and triple our ability” to serve the customers old and new, she said.
She said she’s still pinching herself. When Aboushousha opened Sweet Annie’s in 2008, she had no culinary degree and no baking experience — except for a continual supply of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough in her refrigerator as her kids were growing up — and she didn’t know what to expect.
She just wanted to run a bakery, she said, so she hired two friends who “loved to bake.”
“I just figured we’d all find recipes. I was so naive,” she said. “How hard could it be?
“Little did I know I would be spending up to 14 hours a day and enveloping our whole family in the business,” Aboushousha said.
She has stuck by her original plan to offer the simple homemade sweets “your mother and your grandmother would bake” — what Aboushousha calls “everyday treats.”
She said her move won’t change that policy.
“If it’s not simple and easy, we’re not going to do it,” Aboushousha said.
With her two keys to success easily moved, Aboushousha isn’t worried; she’s excited.
“It’ll be so exciting to meet more Homewood people,” Aboushousha said. “We’re thrilled to be moving there.”
Although Sweet Annie’s is leaving town, Aboushousha is not. She has lived in Flossmoor with her family since marrying her husband, Mo, 19 years ago, and they have raised their daughter Frances, 17, and son, Andy, 15, there.
Many of Aboushousha’s friends and customers are Flossmoor residents, and several also are employees.
None of that will change, Aboushousha said. Nor will Sweet Annie’s locally legendary generosity — the bakery gives out free “mystery bags” of unsold goodies at the end of the day.
There’s no day-old sale rack or half-price items for Sweet Annie’s, and nothing is frozen for future sale. Instead, a mixed bag of unsold goods is passed out — first come, first served — to boys on bikes who come to the door after school or a late customer who didn’t get an order in before closing. The whole idea is to encourage a potential customer to become a regular, Aboushousha said.
While Aboushousha has the heart of a friend, she has the head of a businesswoman. She’s already hired an additional pastry chef in anticipation of the larger space, and Kate Scobie, of Kate Scobie Cake Design, will make the move with her.
Aboushousha’s current pastry chef, Matthew Pope, will add his Elixir Fine Chocolates to the many treats for sale, working in a “special closed room” with the proper temperature and humidity for his delicacies, Aboushousha said.
She recently added Blaeser’s “Two Fold” natural snacks to her bakery’s offerings to include sweets that are “good for you” into the mix.