At 73, Lou Toste O'Brien was tired of being retired. She had been successful with a group of beauty salons and stopped working a few years earlier. But after some trips to Italy and Russia, and learning the Italian language and how to play bridge, she wanted something more.
"It just wasn't enough for me," Toste O'Brien said.
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After making numerous cannoli cakes and Italian desserts and getting rave reviews from her family, she decided to go into business with her mother's recipes. She got the paperwork together in February 2012, but it wasn't until after a trip to Russia that she actually became serious about launching the business.
"I started making cannoli cakes for family and they just loved them. They would say, 'Auntie, can you make this' or 'Auntie, can you make that.' So I thought, maybe I should just sell it," she said.
She launched Grandma Toste, named after her mother Christina Toste, with a product line of cannoli cakes and frozen desserts. She also sells complete dessert kits to make cream filled mini tarts, cannoli and phyllo tarts at home. In addition, Grandma Toste now offers cannoli chips for dipping in cannoli filling.
Grandma Toste's is sold at Casey's Foods in Naperville and Western Springs; Brookhaven Marketplace in Burr Ridge, Darien and Mokena; From Scratch Marketplace in La Grange; Chipain's Finer Foods in Lemont; Prisco's Fine Foods in Aurora; Garden Fresh Market in Naperville; and Lincoln Park Market in Chicago. Her cannoli filling is also used in the desserts at the Naperville Country Club.
She has rented space at a bakery in LaGrange and personally makes all the products, she said.
"It's very time consuming, but I just love it and it's fun," she said.
She also said the experience has "opened a whole new world" for her.
"I had been in the beauty industry for about 40 years, and now I'm in the food industry, and it's a whole new world with different people," she said.
O'Brien, who lives in Naperville with her husband of 20 years, David Zajicek, grew up in her parents; bakery, Finesse Bakery in Boston, and later at their Italian restaurant, Christina's in Forest Park.
In 1970, she started her own business, La Finesse Inc., a group of seven beauty and hair salons that continued operating for about 40 years.
In the meantime, she enjoyed several trips to Europe and China with her husband as well as some trips with groups of friends, she said.
While in Italy she and some friends took classes at the Masseria Marzalossa Cooking School, She also attended Rhodes Cooking School in Lucca and the Tramonto D'oro classes in Praiano.
And if that isn't busy enough, she also runs three to four times a week, exercises regularly and plays golf.
"It's important to take care of oneself," she said.
Heading new fitness center
Jillian McAfee will be leading the new Downsize Fitness facility, which opens July 1 at 1960 Springbrook Square Drive, Naperville. It's a gym only for overweight people. McAfee will be teaching people how to exercise, knowing any unique challenges an overweight person may face while trying to lose weight and become fit in an environment that helps to eliminate feelings of self consciousness.
Nurse is honored
Licensed Practical Nurse Amber Miller has been honored as a Hero in Long Term Care for her work at Hillcrest Nursing Center in Round Lake Beach. The annual selection was made by the Health Care Council of Illinois, Illinois Health Care Association and the Illinois Council on Long Term Care.
Rotary honors Zengeler
Tom Zengeler, president of Zengeler Cleaners in Northbrook, recently was awarded the Rotary Humanitarian Patriot Award that honors community contributors and humanitarian efforts supporting veterans and returning warriors. He is the fifth generation of Zengeler family members at the business. He is also a charter member of the Libertyville Sunrise Rotary Club, having been a Rotarian for nearly 26 years.
Mitch Zych has been named general manager for Air.Water.Energy in Carol Stream. The company was formerly called The Air Conditioning & Heating Company and provides air conditioning, heating, plumbing and green energy systems.
Miroslav Shchurevich has been promoted to branch manager at Associated Bank in South Elgin. ... Realtor Sarah Lee has joined the sales team of Weichert Realtors-Goodchild Homes in Rolling Meadows.
Bernie Majewski, a Mount Prospect State Farm agent, completed 45 years of service June 1. He has received several awards during his career. Look for Majewski in the Mount Prospect Fourth of July parade. He lives in Prospect Heights with his wife, Alyce, and two Maltese puppies, Angel and Molly.
William Di Santo, president of Lemont-based Englewood Construction, said the company's retail group has started to work on the Chicago market's first Ports 1961, a luxury apparel retailer in Rosemont.
Laura Fellows recently opened Jolly Good Fellows Sweet Boutique in Lake Forest, which includes bakery items, frozen yogurt and beverages. She said all cupcakes and other bakery items are made with Madagascar vanilla, Ghirardelli chocolate, and no preservatives or fillers.
Steve Beauchamp, president and CEO of Arlington Heights-based Paylocity, said the company launched a new web solution that allows employees to recognize each other for good work.
Matt Neely is the new Midwest region landfill manager at Advanced Disposal, an environmental services company in Batavia. ... Shane Spooner, operations manager at Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley ReStore in Elgin, said it will be open on Sundays this summer.
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