Looking at Downtown Naperville today, it’s hard to imagine how it grew from the hub of a small farming community to one of the busiest economic centers in the state.
“The 20s and 30s for the downtown were sort of prepping themselves for this storm of development type of thing,” said the Naperville Heritage Society’s Jeanne Schultz Angel.
Barenbrugges Come to Naperville
Naperville was growing, with families moving to the area all the time, including Joe and Laura Barenbrugge. They returned to Laura’s hometown of Naperville from Dunkirk, Indiana in 1924, though it wasn’t exactly by choice.
“It turns out that the Ku Klux Klan came to them one day because Dad was Catholic,” said Joe and Laura’s son Francis. “And the Ku Klux Klan didn’t like the Catholics and they threatened to burn down the building he was in.”
The couple and their seven children rented the building at 16 W. Jefferson Avenue for $150 a month. They lived upstairs and downstairs, Joe opened his business, the Tasty Bakery.
Tasty Bakery’s Early Days
They wasted no time getting involved in the community. On opening day in 1926, they gave away hundreds of loaves of bread to families in Naperville.
It wasn’t the only bakery in town, but Tasty Bakery quickly became a local favorite.
“I don’t know that dad had any specialties,” said Francis. “What he was really good at was the chocolate éclairs and there was a creampuff he made that he dusted with powdered sugar. And those were excellent and that’s what he prided himself with.”
And with each éclair, cake, or even cigar sold, Joe popped open the old cash register he’d purchased in 1925.
Tasty Bakery Changes Hands
Joe eventually sold the bakery to his son Carl in 1952. In 1968, Carl sold it to Earl Aronson, and Tasty Bakery was no longer a Barenbrugge business for the first time in 43 years.
Aronson moved the bakery to Main Street in 1979, and the original register wound up in a resale shop.
Rediscovering the Register
Then, in March of 2021, a man named Steven Fay posted a photo on Facebook saying he’d just noticed a hidden certificate with the Barenbrugge name in an antique register he owned.
“All of us were being contacted by different people based on this Facebook post, but at first we didn’t realize that everybody was working towards the same goal, which was seeing if Steven Fay would ultimately be willing to sell the cash register back to my grandpa Fran,” said Scott Barenbrugge, Francis’ grandson.
Francis’ son Dirk went to pick it up and learned that Fay bought the register secondhand around 1980, and it sat in his house for more than four decades.
“He told me the story about how he looked all over the cash register and couldn’t see any serial number or anything,” said Dirk. “And thought ‘I have no idea what this thing’s worth or where it’s from or anything. And he happened to hit one of the buttons and pulled out the drawer, looked underneath the drawer, and there was the certificate of the bill of sale of the cash register in 1925 to my grandpa.”
Fay sold them the register for $75, and on April 2, Francis was reunited with the register that served his father and brother for 43 years.
Signs of Change
The register is now at home with Fran, proudly displayed next to a drawing of the original bakery started by his father almost 100 years ago.
“We found a place for it and I’m very happy to have it with me,” said Francis.
It’s hard to quantify how much Downtown Naperville has transformed since Tasty Bakery first opened up, but something like an old cash register can give us a glimpse into how much we’ve changed.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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