Pastry chef Michael Jenniches has made a name for himself in the restaurant industry, and now hopes to make a name for First Stop Bake Shop, his new bakery in Rosewood Heights, Illinois.

First Stop opened in this suburb of East Alton less than two months ago and has already seen such a big response, the shop consistently sells out of pastries at the end of the day. This, of course, is ultimately the goal, and Jenniches loves to see it happen on a daily basis.

What brought Jenniches to this 875-square-foot space was a long road, and many years of experience as a pastry chef. Though he and his wife are from Alton originally, he has worked in the former Adams Mark Hotel downtown (now Hyatt Regency), the Ritz-Carlton (both in St. Louis and San Francisco), the St. Louis Club, Forest Hills Country Club, and, for 13 years, with Principia College. Last year, Jenniches took a look back at his experiences and realized that he was ready to take on his own bakery.

"Opening a bakery was always something we wanted to do, and now was the time," says Jenniches.

First Stop offers both breakfast and dessert pastries. Boiled bagels sit alongside gooey butter cake, and cinnamon rolls next to loaves of freshly baked bread. The best seller has been the strawberry roll, a play on the popular dessert offered by the old Mrs. Seibold's Bakery, an Illinois tradition.

"We wanted to offer the things I knew I could do well," says Jenniches.

Other desserts flying off the shelves include the danishes and cream puffs, made with real cream and real butter. People are coming around to their scones, offered in unique flavors like peanut chocolate chip. And in addition to what is on display every morning, First Stop offers catering for small and large crowds — a wedding cake for 300 people or a birthday cake for a child's birthday.

But no matter what Jenniches is baking, he seems happiest with his hands in a ball of dough, working behind the scenes at First Stop. Michael's wife, Mary, has enough front-of-house experience in the industry to run day-to-day operations smoothly, and Jenniches recruited his son and his son's girlfriend to help out in the back. Meanwhile, Jenniches continues to carefully bake bagels, breads, pies, mousse, and cookies (with confections soon to join the menu), hoping to keep selling out by the end of the day.

"When folks are happy with our product, that's what drives us to do our best," says Jenniches.

First Stop Bake Shop is open Tuesday to Friday, 7am to 5pm, and Saturday from 7am to 3pm.

First Stop Bake Shop, 611 East Airline Drive., Rosewood Heights, Illinois, 618.251.8024, firststopbakeshop.com


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