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At Maurice Lenell, one taste will tell...

Marshall Field's becomes Macy's, fine. Jay's Potato Chips goes bankrupt and gets sold to an out-of-state company, fine. Wrigley Field might change its name, fine. But one thing in transition in Chicago business that ISN'T fine: Maurice Lenell Cooky Company is in Chapter 11 reorganization and is being forced out of its long-time home.

The 70-year-old Maurice Lenell Cooky Co. factory and store at 4474 N. Harlem Ave. have been sold to a developer who wants to open a Costco-anchored retail center on the site and surrounding property.

Maurice Lenell Cooky Co. — whose Jelly Stars, Almonettes and other cookies are a Chicago tradition — is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and could either reorganize or be sold, according to Ken Mann, president of Equity Partners Inc., the broker Maurice Lenell hired to find investors or buyers for the business.

The company has apparently been done in (at least partially) by our federal government's perpetually misguided agriculture subsidies which prop up domestic sugar and corn production, those same subsidies that have already killed off most of Chicago's candy industry. Nice work, Washington.

Maurice Lenell was a cherished staple of my childhood. Quite frankly, though, I hadn't thought much about Lenell literally for decades, until this past Christmas, when a client of my company sent over a gift package of Lenell cookies that briefly found a home atop a filing cabinet ten feet from my desk. And I do mean briefly - I blissfully gorged myself on all my old favorites, delighted to discover that all of them tasted exactly the same as they did thirty years ago, and did more than my fair share of polishing the assortment off. This is one local institution whose demise would truly sadden me.

Say it ain't so, Maurice!

March 12, 2008 in Chicago Observations | Permalink

Comments

No!

Posted by: Julie at Mar 13, 2008 11:30:38 AM

My sentiments exactly. Your rant was PERFECTLY-put (it brought a tear to my eye, in fact ((my own Grandma Warnusz was our beloved supplier))), and explained why I've been wandering around Schnucks' megastores for the past few years, searching for those Almonettes to no avail. Thank you. PS: PLEASE send cookies.

Posted by: Maggie at Jul 3, 2008 11:21:34 PM

PPS: Have you noticed that Cheeze Waffies are gone TOO? Oh my god.

Posted by: Maggie at Jul 3, 2008 11:22:56 PM

SAY IT ISN'T SO!!! Maurice Lenell is one of my must-stop places whenever I visit Chicago! (just polished off a sprinkle cookie, in fact) They are, hands-down the BEST cookies anywhere, beating out any fancy baker you can name. And I'm not being nostalgic for childhood cookies. I grew up in Ohio and only discovered these cookies on a trip to Chicago about 20 years ago. HOW could they be in bancruptcy? I've bought enough cookies alone over the years to keep them in the black. ;-) Does anyone know when the factory/store is closing? I was just there last week, (where I stocked up), but would happily make another trip sooner than planned. I'm also a Marshall Fields' fan and for those of us who love MF, it's never been "fine" that Macy's took over the Chicago store! We're working to get the name and store returned to the city of Chicago:

http://fieldsfanschicago.org/

Do we need to start a similar group for Maurice Lennell?

Posted by: Diane Lassan at Sep 4, 2008 10:18:19 AM

I'm so sad! You use to be able to smell the cookies on the air for miles! I love those Pinwheel cookies and the shop that allowed you to snack before you bought anything! This old cookie factory is definately worth more than a Costco, in my mind. Sometimes money isn't everything...

Posted by: Rachele at Nov 15, 2008 1:12:18 PM

While it's true, Maurice Lenell is moving, it is also alive and well. At least for now, the factory store will be open thru the holidays, and you can buy holiday tins online at www.Lenell.com .
The Maurice Lenell name and it's cookies will continue on under new ownership and a location, yet to be determined. We are happy to continue such a tradition, and hope you will all bare with us during this transition.

Posted by: Sue at Nov 17, 2008 10:33:45 AM

Sue, thanks for the update. In terms of reader comments, this post has generated one of the biggest responses I've had as a blogger so far, which clearly shows the love that Chicagoans past and present have for Maurice Lenell. All of us hope you find a way to keep this good thing going.

Posted by: Pete at Nov 17, 2008 11:14:11 AM

Thanks for posting the story about this very fine and wonderfully priced gift to our world.

I pray it will somehow find its way to keeping alive. Is there anything I can do. The excellent cookies just came to my attention this New Year's Eve at Fairway Market here in New York where so many other fine traditions have survived or pay that they will.

I am a stand for excellence and the stories that make a difference in our world. Peace and many blessings that you will go beyond mere survival as a story,but live for future generations to come.

Lydia

Posted by: L. Mali Gesmundo at Dec 31, 2009 2:35:15 AM