Geneva baker caters to specialty needs

When Ilene Keivel, owner of Sweet Natalie's in Geneva, lost 40 pounds on a gluten-free diet, she believed that gluten-free foods were good for her health.

But gluten-free food options weren't always enticing or readily available at grocery stores and bakeries.

So she decided to change the products in her own bakery and change the business format. The bakery was turned into a co-op in 2014 where she invited other bakers to come in on a rotating schedule to bake in her kitchen, which is open 24 hours a day. Those specialty items are then sold in the bakery.

Sweet Natalie's has since focused on gluten-free foods, as well as Paleo, sugar free, low carb, vegan, egg free, dairy free, yeast free, grain free and peanut and tree nut free dessert options.

“We're helping people with this type of bakery, because there are few places where you can get food like this,” said Keivel, 40, of Oswego.

Keivel started her career in the health care industry, working in sports medicine and outpatient physical therapy. As a youngster, she always enjoyed baking and decorating. She decided to leave the physical therapy career and work at a cookie bakery. That's when she decided to start her own business and opened Sweet Natalie's in 2012, naming it after her daughter.

“I had worked at Cookies By Design, which inspired me to have my own bakery. I thought I could create a business model and bring in several bakers, who all had their own specialty,” she said.

After operating for two years as a regular bakery, customers were asking for gluten-free and vegan options. That's what gave her the idea to change herself and her bakery.

“With so many known food allergies, I decided to change our bakery into a gluten-free and allergy friendly bakery including vegan, Paleo, low carb, sugar free and nut-free dessert options,” Keivel said.

The champ retires

Achour Esho, 36, founder of Palatine-based FLO Fitness and Martial Arts, said he wanted to go out a champ, and he did. Last September, this column featured Esho, a Syrian immigrant who built the American dream with a family and a business here. He also became the professional American Boxing Organization regional super welterweight champion on Jan. 21, after fighting boxer Anthony Abbruzzese.

“The final punch that ended it all was a right uppercut,” Esho said. “I knocked him down four times during three rounds. I believe two of them were with a right straight.”

Esho fought three times since his return to the sport. He won all three matches. He now holds the ABO boxing title and will retire to focus on teaching adults and children about fitness and boxing at his gym.

“It was incredible to be back in the ring again fighting as the main event, for a U.S. title in front of my hometown crowd. I've been excited about it since it was announced months ago,” he said. “I went to training immediately and never let my foot off the gas pedal as it came to preparing for this fight. I was fully ready. After I knocked him out it was pure joy. My career has come to the sweetest ending. Cinderella story for a fighter/gym owner, 15-0 with 10 knockouts and retiring with the ABO belt.”

Fast Tracks

• Russell Doll of Naperville, Jen Elhadary of Glenview, Mike Ferrell of Hinsdale, and Pete Bensen of Downers Grove have been appointed to the to the board of directors of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

• Ying Stoller, owner of Gurnee-based Ying's Kitchen Inc., was featured on WGN-TV last week doing a cooking demo with fried rice to celebrate Chinese New Year, which was Saturday.

• Brent Brodeski, CEO of Savant Capital Management, was named 2017 Citizen of the Year in Rockford, where the firm is based. The company also has offices in Geneva, Hoffman Estates, Naperville and elsewhere.

• Israel Stacy is the new senior vice president and zone manager at Glenview-based Combined Insurance.

• There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people who make business work. Send news about people in business to Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

'A step up the ladder'

Roselle tax preparer marks 40 years with memorabilia

Jasmine Juarez, who works the counter, from left, Ilene Keivel, owner of Sweet Natalie's in Geneva, and Lorena Allende, a baker with Eye Candy Bake Shop pose inside Sweet Natalie's. COURTESY OF SWEET NATALIE'S
These cakes are part of the lineup of vegan, gluten free and other specialty bakery at Sweet Natalie's in Geneva. COURTESY OF SWEET NATALIE'S
Achour Esho, founder of Palatine-based Flo Boxing and Martial Arts, won the ABO title and plans to retire and focus more on his Palatine business and family. COURTESY OF KRYSTAL ESHO
Brent Brodeski
Ying Stoller
Ilene Keivel owns Sweet Natalie's in Geneva, which is a co-op featuring different vegan, gluten free and other specialty products from area bakers who cook right in Sweet Natalie's kitchen. COURTESY OF SWEET NATALIE'S
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