GRAND BOULEVARD – The storefront called Abundance Bakery home for more than 30 years is now home to Pookie Crack Cakes.
Yes, you read that right. And whatever you think, owners Dedra McGee Simmons and husband Doug Simmons have probably heard it before.
But behind every name is a story, and the story of their bakery at 105 E. 47th St. He is great.
Simply put, it’s a bundt cake with buttercream frosting, McGee Simmons said.
“You know how the bundt cake fluffs and cracks at the very top right? Before you pour the butter rum sauce into the cake, you poke holes in the cake and let it all drip into the cracks and holes in the cake. You soak it and then you turn it upside down and all that rum sauce seeps out. You cut it and you and you eat it in the morning. It was really like cake for breakfast,” said McGee Simmons, who grew up on the West Side.
But the name didn’t really hit home until a neighbor who had tasted one of her cakes noticed a caravan of cars double-parked on their narrow residential street and joked that McGee was going “extra” to draw such a large crowd.
“He said I’ve got people like Pookie here,” McGee Simmons recalled. The neighbor was referencing Chris Rock’s junkie character in “New Jack City,” a popular 1990s urban classic.
McGee Simmons said she’s seen people from all over the country line up to try her specialty loaves. They come in nine varieties, including Caramel, Chocolate Oreo Dream, Peach Crack Cobbler and her ever-popular Butter Pecan Praline. Each cake costs $11.79.
What started as a modest side hustle to her corporate pharmaceutical job really took off during the pandemic when — after spending several years selling her beloved butter pecan praline cake out of her third-floor South Shore shop — McGee Simmons wondered aloud what would happen if she decided to do it full time. In addition, her cakes became so popular that their two-bedroom apartment was covered in cake supplies, and McGee Simmons wasn’t sure when he would return to the office.
It made sense to dream bigger, she said.
McGee Simmons made hundreds of cakes a week from her home, and her stock sold out within hours. She and her husband moved to a larger house because they believed they would be able to meet the requirements a little more easily. When it became clear they would need even more space, her husband suggested they start looking at Bronzeville and Hyde Park—two neighborhoods on McGee Simmons’ wish list.
The couple had just looked in the window at the nearby Rosenwald Apartments when they noticed brown paper covering the windows of Abundance Bakery.
Simmons swept the floors there as a child, but over the years he lost touch with the late owner, Bill Ball. Maybe the fact that it was empty now was a sign, Simmons thought.
He recalled how Abundance Bakery was a lifesaver for so many kids like him, kids who were considered “problems.” He recalled how Ball’s faith and support changed his life.
Ball, himself famous for his caramel upside-down cake, died in April 2022. He was 74 years old.
When Simmons began telling his wife about the history of her old neighborhood and how it created a lifelong connection, she knew her bakery would feel like home.
Simmons, a Marshall High graduate, beat out 50 other buyers last fall and got the keys 24 hours after Ball’s widow returned them to the landlord.
McGee Simmons signed a lease in September 2022 and spent the past 10 months preparing the storefront and investing $40,000 of her savings into the business. The night before the grand opening, the couple had $12.86 in their checking account.
“We couldn’t even afford to get the peaches I needed for the cobbler cake. My mother-in-law had to buy me some and put them down,” McGee Simmons said.
The bakery sold out the next day, and every day since then, the supply has grown with ever-increasing demand. McGee Simmons said she went from making 250 cakes a day to 400.
Traces of the ball and abundance remain; the scale he once used to weigh things has been dyed pink and now serves as a cash register. The strip of blue paint that Ball used to decorate the storefront is still there.
“The spirit of Abundance Bakery lives on in Pookie Crack Cakes,” said Simmons. “This neighborhood deserves a bakery.”
Pookie Crack Cakes is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or while supplies last.
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