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Hewn Bakery bringing third location to Winnetka

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Co-owners of Hewn Bakery Julie Matthei and Ellen King call what they do a “labor of love.” Others might call it a daily grind.

They were determined to make some of the best organic bread and pastry in the country when they founded Hewn Bakery in Evanston 11 years ago.

Hewn has since been listed as one of the best bakeries in the country, surpassing the pair’s expectations.

Despite major problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the daily grind of operating a popular organic bakery, the company is growing and a new Hewn “outpost” is opening in Winnetka.

“We have a nice customer base there already,” Matthei said. “The village has been really wonderful. Their economic development department has been working with us to make this happen.”

She hopes the new Winnetka location, at 894 Green Bay Road in Hubbard Woods, will be up and running by early fall at the latest.

“It’s construction so you never know how things are going to go,” she said. “We’re really pleased about the Winnetka opportunity. They helped us find the right spot and walked us through the process, coming to the space making sure we knew everything we had to do. Pretty hands on in a lovely way.”

All of Hewn’s organic breads and pastries are made at the company’s Evanston bakehouse in the 1700 block of Central Street each morning and are delivered warm to Hewn’s “outpost” retail shop in Libertyville. Hewn has also released a cookbook.

Some of their bread products include Whole Wheat Seeded, Caramelized Onion Rye and Blonde Country. Different loaves are available per day and are indicated on the website. Certain items such as sandwiches and other baked goods are only available at the Evanston location. Other items are seasonal or on rotation.

“Hewn” means to give form or shape with heavy cutting blows by hand, the bakeries website says. Everything at Hewn is made in-house, from scratch daily using “an ancient craft that relies on the hands of the baker.”

“In a time of big box stores and large chains, Hewn is a return back to a smaller, independently owned and operated bakery,” the website says. “We value our team of bakers, pastry chefs and front staff, and we love being part of the Evanston and Libertyville communities.”

But in the unbelievable and brutal weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 it looked like Hewn might not survive the opening of if flagship store, Matthei said.

“We thought we had maybe lost everything we had worked for up until that point,” she explained. “A lot of grit, determination and creativity, we figured out a way to still get this place open. We were an essential business and people could order online.”

She described the work as a “labor of love” the pair puts a lot of thought into, making their jobs “non-stop.”

“We believe in what we’re doing,” Matthei added. “We’re passionate about it. A lot of times it doesn’t feel like work because we’re committed to what we’re doing. We’ve pushed forward with pure grit and determination and a great team of people. I’m most proud of that.”

Hewn Bakery is open at the Evanston location on Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hours at the Libertyville location are adjusted slightly on Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekend from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Brian L. Cox is a freelance reporter with Pioneer Press.

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