Bleeding Heart Bakery, an all-organic retail bakery in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood, showcases its eclectic style with its merchandising techniques. Baker and owner Michelle Garcia seems to revel in uniting what some might perceive as contradictory worlds, such as cookie baking and punk rock, or body art and tea cakes. But Bleeding Heart doesn’t try to be exclusive or posh. Instead, it tries to be inclusive.
|Non-baked items, such as jam, are showcased in Bleeding Heart’s bakery cases. Brightly painted rolling pins also are used to add color to displays.|
“The décor is as close as you can get to a manifestation of who Michelle is,” says Ces Lopez, general manager. “A lot of the artwork, posters, colors, are a mix of her personality.”
The inclusive feel of the bakery is achieved through color. Every shade in the rainbow is used in Bleeding Heart’s displays, with special consideration given to the brighter and bolder pigments, such as hot pink and lime green. All natural, organic and vegan baked products suffer a reputation for being bland, but Garcia’s creations are anything but bland, and her merchandising scheme reinforces that fact.
Colorful, local artwork
The walls are covered with artwork from local artists. In July, Garcia featured the work of a Milwaukee artist whose subject matter just happened to be bleeding or beating hearts. “The woman sent us a disc of her work, then came down and met with us,” Lopez says. “You would think they were made specifically for the bakery. The decision to show her art was a natural, and only adds to the shop’s vibrant, colorful appeal.”
The piece de la resistance in Garcia’s bakery is her large store window display. She tries to come up with a new theme every couple of months, and the resulting display generally reflects the season.
“The window display also centers around food that is seasonal, for instance when rhubarb is available, she’ll try to put things in the windows to reflect the seasonal availability,” Lopez says. “Last month, one window had nothing but local organic suppliers, all Chicago or Midwestern products.”
July’s window celebrated wedding season, and Garcia set up a complete reception table to display her non,-traditional wedding cakes.
“We used a local high-end catering company to bring in linens for the table,” Lopez says. “But unlike the fancy linens, the cakes, which are organic, aren’t very traditional. It seems very seldom do people order a very conventional white wedding cake, and I’ve never seen her send a white wedding cake out.”
Merchandisers in the store also scream variety, as non-perishable items are sprinkled throughout the displays of fresh baked products. When she runs out of a certain baked products, Garcia will fill the space with non-baked items, or her collection of old rolling pins. The conflagration of stuff in the displays draws customers attention.
The non-baked merchandise available at the store includes coffee, flour, baking powder, baking soda, whole wheat pastry flour, double chocolate chip cookie mix and other items that catch Garcia’s eye.
“She likes to attend the trade shows, meet the people selling the products; pretty much makes connections with those people, then she’ll have it,” Lopez says.