Franklin Park baker always been an early riser
Aracely's Bakery employee Jose Leon stocks a bin with bolillo on Sept. 24 in Franklin Park. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:15AM
FRANKLIN PARK — By noon, the bakers at Aracely’s in downtown Franklin Park are walking to their cars or bicycles, done with work for the day.
“Some of them start at 2 a.m.,” owner Sixto Rincon said. “Some start at 3 a.m.”
If that seems early, it’s because they have to prepare pastries, sandwiches, tamales and cakes before customers start knocking on the front door at 4:30 a.m. Those are people on their way to factories, coming back from late shifts or heading to the Metra train.
Rincon has been an early riser – he’s up by 3 a.m. – since age 15, when he began working part-time in a bakery to help pay his high school tuition. He grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, once known for its meat packing operations.
“It was predominantly a Polish and Bohemian neighborhood,” Rincon said. “It seemed like it was a neighborhood where everybody knew each other. There were gangs, but they didn’t bother anybody.”
His father worked the third shift as a machinist at Imperial Eastman and, when Rincon turned 5, his mother joined the company, doing piecework.
Rincon attended University of Illinois in Chicago with thoughts of becoming an engineer and then transferred to DeVry with the goal of becoming an electronic technician. In his sophomore year, he left college.
“I think about it all the time,” Rincon said. “I love to fix things. I also love to bake.”
Baking won. In 1982, at the age of 21, he leased and ran a bakery on 18th Street in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. When the lease expired in 1984, he opened his own bakery, named Aracely after his oldest daughter.
“It was rough,” Rincon said. “No banks wanted to loan you money. Back then you need collateral. My mom and dad helped me a lot, my sister helped me a lot, my brother helped me put the place together. I had a couple buddies who had bakeries. They loaned me equipment they had.”
Over time, he expanded. His brother opened a bakery in Melrose Park. In the early 1990s, he opened up in Franklin Park at the Franklin Park Medical Center just down the street. In 2002, they relocated to their present location at 9667 Franklin Ave.
“When we were in Chicago, there was a lot of competition,” Rincon said. “We wanted to find an area with no one. We were looking for a small downtown area.”
Over the years, he relocated the Chicago bakery to Cicero and opened a bakery in Villa Park. A daughter and her husband opened the latest bakery in La Grange in February. All the bakeries are family owned, with his mother, wife, brother, daughter and sister involved. Even his other two children work on weekends.
The Franklin Park bakery has had its challenges, mostly from local construction projects that cut off traffic flow.
“When they started the condo building across the street, the builder closed off the street from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day,” Rincon said. “Traffic flow was stopped for a couple years. The Grand Avenue underpass, drivers went through North Avenue or Irving Park. Those years were the hardest.”
The bakeries have also had their successes, the most recent when his son-in-law began customizing cakes. The company website shows photos of cakes designed like a turtle, hockey arena, case of beer, castle and others.
Recently Rincon was appointed to Franklin Park’s Economic Development Commission. He’ll help evaluate industrial companies that request property tax reductions and consider the right mix of businesses in the village. It bears a resemblance to his day job.
“If you don’t mix it properly, you don’t get the right texture, color, flavor,” Rincon said. “I get great pleasure in seeing something come out of the oven the way it’s supposed to look.”