Zion’s Cake Box Bakery & Café comes full circle
By Tina Johansson Special to The News-Sun December 6, 2012 6:12PM
Peggy Pontillo of Winthrop Harbor loads smiley face cookies into the display case at the Cake Box Bakery and Cafe in Zion on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Bakery & Café
2724 Sheridan Road
Call for hours. Closed Sundays
ZION — When going about your shopping this season, you might want to complete the holiday experience by stopping by a delightful bakery and eatery that started out in the very location it is today, albeit under a different name.
Besides the yummy aromas that drift about the Cake Box Bakery & Café in the heart of downtown Zion, the warm and inviting atmosphere, including antique exposed brick walls and comfy chairs near a wood-burning fireplace, make it especially pleasant this time of year.
But Cake Box, owned by Ed Leech, wasn’t always in this location. In 1947, Ed’s late father Richard, his grandfather Edgar and an uncle started Community Bakery, according to Ed’s sister, Rhonda Johnson, the family historian who got accounts from their 90-year-old mother, Esther.
Then in 1953, Richard Leech bought a bakery in North Chicago and named it Cake Box. In 1958, Richard and Esther moved Cake Box to the corner of 29th Street and Sheridan Road in Zion, the current site of PNC Bank. Ed joined his parents in the business in 1973. Beginning at age 12, Ed has worked at the family bakery.
“If you could reach over the bench, you worked at the bakery,” he said, explaining all five Leech children had a hand there.
In 2004, Ed moved Cake Box from 29th and Sheridan to the current location, and renamed it Cake Box Bakery & Café. “It has come full circle,” said Rhonda.
Ed remodeled the store and brought a relic from the former bakery — the white enameled door of the hard-working Faulds oven. “He’s the sentimental one,” said Rhonda, a former principal of West and Beulah Park schools in Zion.
Those in the know come to the Cake Box with its long family history and sunny disposition. Here you can find hefty donuts, tasty pastries, and handcrafted sandwiches prepared on more than half-a-dozen different types of bread and wraps, including the owner’s original creation — Ed’s Bread made with whole grains, no fat, no sugar, and no preservatives.
The lunch crowd has sandwich choices that include an abundance of meats and cheeses, and all the trimmings. Homemade chili is available, and there are two different soups offered daily, as well as sides. The most popular soup is the twice-baked potato.
For $6.99, diners can have the special sandwich of the day with chips, pickle, and cup of soup or side. Weekly specials are $6.49 (tax included). On Fridays, you can get grilled salmon on a croissant, or an egg salad sandwich.
Ed also serves breakfast at the place from 6 to 11 a.m. There is the Cake Box combo featuring two eggs, biscuits and gravy, and two sausage patties for $4.95; a country sausage sandwich with egg, cheese, sausage, bacon or ham on a biscuit, or croissant for $3.49 and $3.95; biscuits and gravy for $2.95; and a donut or Danish with large coffee for $2.25.
Depending on the day, special pastries are available. Thursdays feature bear claws and almond horns. And on Fridays there are Ed’s dad’s special éclairs.
Dad’s special pastries don’t stop there. “We still have his brownies, too,” said Rhonda.
Another product that’s been popular for years are the potato rolls. This past Thanksgiving featured many potato roll orders from customers, as well as special order pies, cakes and cookies.
Some of Ed’s siblings came to help, including sisters Nancy Shields and Carolyn Leach (she married a man with same sounding last name, different spelling), a retired Iowa school principal. Brother Richard is a busy cardiologist in Waukesha, Wis.