Family Traditions Keep Deerfields Bakery Growing
Each generation of the Schmitt family keeps faith with the past while utilizing the present and future.
The success of Deerfields Bakery may well be attributed to five generations of the Schmitt family keeping one hand firmly on the company’s 126-year-old tradition of quality and the other on the latest technology.
When current CEO Tim Schmitt joined the company in 2006 as the fifth generation of his family in the baking business, he suggested to Karl Schmitt, his father and boss, a bigger online presence for the company.
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"We’re a bakery, what do we need that for," Karl said to Tim. Nevertheless, Tim went about overseeing the development of a website and ultimately a Facebook page while continuing the traditions that have made Deerfields one of the Village’s longstanding business institutions.
When Karl Schmitt joined the family business a generation before his son in 1979, he thought a computer would be a useful tool. His father, Henry Schmitt, who brought the business to Deerfield a few years before from its roots in Chicago and Germany, was skeptical.
“‘We’re a bakery, what do we need that for,’” Henry said to Karl, according to Tim. The computer went into the company and it was not long before it started to give Deerfields a competitive edge.
“He (Karl) used a computer program to for ordering systems,” Tim Schmitt said. “We were one of the very first to purchase a PC in 1980. It was a fortune (then). It allowed us to take a more complete order.” Some bakeries still do it all by hand.
Fifth Generation Assumes Reins
Tim and his sister, Jacki Schmitt, who manages the Deerfield shop—there are also locations in Buffalo Grove and Schaumberg—represent the fifth generation of the family in the business. Karl and his brother Kurt remain involved owners.
While Karl Schmitt was using technology to improve and grow the administrative areas of the business, brother Kurt Schmitt, was doing the same thing with cakes and cookies. Have you ever wondered how an actual picture gets on a Deerfields’ specialty cake?
“My uncle (Kurt Schmitt) took up decorating and got into a lot more customization,” Tim Schmitt said. “He used cut outs to turn it (the cake) into a 3D image. He was (one of) the first one to put an image on a cake.” The image is transferred to edible rice paper.
The Elizabeth—A Staple for More Than 60 Years
Specialty cakes were nothing new to the Schmitts. The Elizabeth cake was created nearly 60 years ago when Queen Elizabeth of England came to the United States.
“Our grandfather (Henry) wanted to do something to honor the visit,” Jacki Schmitt said. “He made a cake in the shape of a crown.” It remains one of the bakery’s most popular creations.
Deerfields roots first took hold in Weislch, Germany, in 1886 when Adam Schmitt, Tim and Jacki’s great, great grandfather, opened a bakery. In 1911, their great grandparents, Adam and Anna Schmitt boarded a ship for New York’s Ellis Island and eventually made their way to Chicago.
Adam Schmitt opened a Bakery and his son, Henry, turned it into Schmitt’s Bake Shop which grew at a rapid rate. It grew too fast, according to Tim, and went bankrupt. That family pitfall gave rise to Deerfields. Henry learned The Deerfield Bakery was for sale.
“Because of the bankruptcy he had to put it in my father’s name,” Tim Schmitt said. “Other bakers loaned him money. The Baker’s Guild was a close group. (They) helped our grandfather. They all knew each other.” The family considers this part of the story a source of pride and inspiration.