Bakery business booms during graduation season

Graduation season is in full swing for high schools and colleges around the suburbs, and for local bakeries, business is booming.

Starting in early May with college graduations and continuing through late June, businesses like Jarosch Bakery in Elk Grove Village see an influx in cake and cookie orders as graduating students celebrate the milestone.

“We just work a little harder and faster and sometimes longer than normal,” Jarosch Manager Debbie Milks said. “We aren’t the type of business where we can hire people just for a few weeks, so we just work with the staff that we have.”

According to Milks, the busy time lasts about five or six weeks. Graduation ceremonies are spread out throughout late spring, and Milks said many people who graduate earlier in the season may hold off on their graduation parties until mid to late June.

Graduation season always is a busy time for Sweet T’s Bakery & Cake Studio in Arlington Heights, but owner Tammy Montesinos said this year is especially big due to the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled graduations in 2020. Many students who missed out on a middle school or high school graduation are now graduating from high school or college.

According to Montesinos, Sweet T’s currently is receiving 200 to 240 cake orders each weekend, which she estimated was a 50% increase from non-graduation season.

“Four years ago, a lot of these kids didn’t have a graduation,” Montesinos said. “So they’re celebrating bigger.”

  Graduation cakes decorated with college logos are displayed at Sweet T’s Bakery on Thursday in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard/

Central Continental Bakery in Mount Prospect has seen a different result from the pandemic.

According to owner Robert Czerniak, the size of the cakes ordered and the number of orders has decreased since before the pandemic, which Czerniak attributes to smaller parties and economic inflation.

Despite the pandemic impacts, Czerniak said the May and June graduation season still is the busiest time of year. He estimated the bakery fulfills 150 to 200 graduation orders each weekend, and staff works overtime to complete orders.

“We really don’t say no to anybody who wants to place an order,” Czerniak said. “Everyone here is willing to work more.”

As graduation ceremonies continue, bakery owners expect the orders to keep rolling in — and they’ll keep up the pace baking and decorating.

“It’s just an exciting time to be a bakery owner,” Montesinos said. “I love seeing business up, and I love making people happy with cakes and contributing to the celebration of their kid.”

  Owner Tammy Montesinos puts the finishing touches on a graduation cake at Sweet T’s Bakery on Thursday in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard/
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