Batavia's Gather Bakery opening second location - a holiday pop-up shop in Geneva Commons

In many ways, the bakery dreams of Eric and Deanna Keilty would get an important litmus test this holiday season as their Gather Bakery moves into a temporary storefront at the Geneva Commons.

The scenario is commonly known as a pop-up store, meaning a business owner takes up the Commons' offer to set up shop in the large outdoor mall along Randall Road to decide if it's an interesting one-shot deal or could become a long-term investment in that location.

Many residents are likely familiar with Gather Bakery, which has a small retail spot in Batavia's popular Boardwalk Shops this year. That represented a nice move up for the Keiltys, who bake out of their home kitchen in Rockford and generally look to local markets and events to sell their gift packages, cookies, pastries and fresh bread.

They have sold their baked goods at markets in St. Charles and Batavia.

But things will get busy for these parents of four children, not to mention the commute from Rockford to Geneva and Batavia with the baked goods, as well as dry mixes that make for good gift packages during the holidays.

The Gather Bakery Holiday Boutique will be at 1380 Commons Drive, next to Noodles & Company restaurant. In that spot, it can be seen from Randall Road. The Keiltys are hoping for a Saturday, Nov. 4 opening.

"We will be doing both sites, the Commons and Batavia Boardwalk, through the holidays," Deanna said.

It's important to do so, partly because the Keiltys want to continue the good vibes - and sales - they have enjoyed at the Batavia Boardwalk since last May, but also because they want to move to the Tri-Cities area, possibly with a permanent brick-and-mortar location to operate.

It would be a return home for Deanna, who grew up in St. Charles and attended schools here.

"We have a lot of followers in the Tri-Cities and want to come back here at some point," Deanna said.

Sandra Ranney, her third-grade teacher at Fox Ridge Elementary in St. Charles, has had much to do with building a following for the bakery. Because she taught with Deanna's late mother and has known the family for so long, she keeps folks on social media posted as to what Deanna is up to regarding Gather Bakery.

"She keeps up with everything, which is really nice of her," Deanna said of Ranney's efforts to push buttons for Gather Bakery.

Deanna worked as a teacher in Arizona for a year before becoming a stay-at-home mom after her first child was born. Eric worked as a warehouse supervisor. All the while, they baked out of their kitchen as a side gig and sold wares at markets when time allowed.

They have been selling bakery goods for six years but have given it full-time attention as business owners for the past two years.

"We really enjoy it," said Deanna, who noted the family returned to Illinois to be closer to her mother, who passed away two years ago. Once back here, the family shifted attention to the bakery as a full-time occupation.

Gather Bakery accepts online orders through the company website or messaging through Facebook, Instagram, email at or by calling (630) 445-9544.

"We're looking to get into a permanent location but just aren't sure where we want to do that," Deanna noted. "We just started looking and got the opportunity to test it out at the Commons for two months.

"Then we have the option to stay there if we decide to sign a lease."

For those who have come to love the decorated sugar cookies or classics like chocolate chip cookies at Gather Bakery, the idea of a permanent location is likely already resonating.

Holidays and more dining

As the holiday season comes upon us, it's probably not bad timing for new restaurants to get their footing.

Acquaviva Ristorante in Batavia at the former Tribella location at 1900 Mill St. is open for diners on a reservation-only basis.

Meanwhile, Nacho Burger has opened as another restaurant under the Bien Trucha Group management. It is next to the popular Bien Trucha restaurant at 410 W. State St. in Geneva.

Customers are already raving about the nachos and the "Mex" burgers at this spot.

Also in Geneva, ZaZa's Pizzeria is posting on social media that its ovens are in place at the former Osteria Bigolaro site at 317 W. State St. in Geneva.

That means it shouldn't be too long before a new pizza parlor, one with pretty good reviews, is serving the area.

Take event off the calendar

As a guest at the annual Leadership Breakfast during American Education Week at Geneva High School, a few thoughts always stood out. I have attended this event every year (other than COVID years) since its inception about 25 years ago, with the first few being held at Geneva Middle School.

It struck me as not only an event in which local community leaders had a chance to visit with students of all ages but one with many more moving parts than met the eye.

The student council at each school in the district made a presentation at assigned tables to guests who walked around the high school cafeteria to learn about school projects or fundraisers.

That means all these students and their teachers had to get to the high school that morning and be ready to talk in front of many people.

In addition, the Geneva Academic Foundation presented its check to the district to help pay for various equipment needs.

Toss in the fact that some high school jazz band or orchestra students played classical music in the room before breakfast; a lot was going on in a short period of time.

I can't say where the breakfast food came from, but it was always there, so someone had some work to prepare it.

So it is that it wasn't a big surprise when new Superintendent Andrew Barrett sent an email that the leadership breakfast was no more and that it was time to contemplate and plan other types of student-community interactions.

All good things must end, and this event was surely one of the better ones in terms of getting teachers, students and community leaders in the same room at the same time. It's not an easy equation to establish, and my hat is off to those who worked so hard for many years to make it happen.

As an aside, though not necessary in the grand scheme of things, I would have preferred that Barrett host one so we could all meet him face-to-face, and he could then determine what he thought of it before just deciding to end it.

But, as Barrett noted in his letter, this was a decision based on a lot of collaboration and ideas with school personnel about how best to give students opportunities to advance their leadership skills.

Plus, a new school leader has the right to establish something new and, hopefully, even better for everyone involved.

Moving market indoors

For those weekend market attendees who want to keep going when the colder weather sets in, Batavia MainStreet sent a reminder that the start of the Indoor Market Season begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.

Keep in mind that the markets will be held at The Dock, 150 First St. in Batavia, but the market plans to move to Grainology BrewStillery at 131 Flinn St., Suite C, as soon as that business opens later in the market season.

It would continue at Grainology every Saturday through the middle of May.

Eric and Deanna Keilty, owners of Gather Bakery, bake out of their home kitchen in Rockford and also sell their products at the Batavia Boardwalk Shops. Courtesy of Gather Bakery
Gather Bakery, which sells baked goods at markets and at the Batavia Boardwalk Shops, is opening a holiday pop-up shop in Geneva Commons. Courtesy of Gather Bakery
Acquaviva Ristorante Batavia is now open for diners on a reservation-only basis. Courtesy of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce
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