Reimagined Mackenzies Bakery opens in Vicksburg

The wait is over for baked-good lovers across Southwest Michigan who, for a year, have gone without their favorite artisanal products from the former MacKenzie’s Bakery in Kalamazoo.

While the recipes, smells and even some staff will be the same, patrons will now find a reimagined Mackenzies in historic downtown Vicksburg. Vicksburg native Chris Moore purchased the former Kalamazoo bakery almost one year ago to the date of the April 14 grand opening.

In addition to the multi-year renovation of the former paper mill on the village’s west end, Moore is pursuing some smaller projects in Vicksburg that pair well with the Mill’s destination goals.

Moore transformed the 1,700-square-foot space at 103 E. Prairie Street into a charming bakery storefront. The intent is to attract more people to the historic downtown area with desirable products while showing visitors the vision to revitalize shuttered spaces into aesthetically pleasing business opportunities that will benefit the village for years to come.

Mackenzies Bakery offers a walk-in storefront where patrons can grab scratch-baked breads, including the popular Pretzel, Struan, Crispy Italian, and Paesano, as well as a selection of cookies, muffins, and beverages. Plans are included for a wholesale operation.

The bakery is personal to Moore, who like many area residents in the 1960s remember Otto and Anna Kaak’s Country Maid Bakery on South Main Street. Moore recalls the sweet smells of the bakery and the many treats waiting for purchase behind the glass: cookies, sweet rolls, turnovers and “wedgies” were area favorites. Otto or Anna often placed a sample tea cookie in a young patron’s hand.

Moore’s wish is for future generations of children to enjoy bakery treats in a thriving downtown village. “I fondly remember walking to the bakery with Mike Oswalt when our moms were working on Water Over the Dam. We each had a quarter in hand and were excited to buy a turnover at the bakery,” said Moore. “My hope is that a visit to Mackenzies Bakery will create a new generation’s worth of memories for residents and visitors in our hometown.”

To ensure continuity through the transition, Moore engaged former owner John MacKenzie for consultation. “Chris Moore and his team have really captured the essence of a small-town bakery while incorporating modern functionality,” MacKenzie said after touring the nearly completed site in March. “The space has so much natural light and charm, along with the best baking oven in the industry. It just brings a smile to my face knowing the legacy continues with this Vicksburg location.”

In addition to engaging the former owner, Moore also hired two long-time MacKenzie’s employees to manage daily operations—General Manager Jill Younger and Head Baker Cris Najar.

The grand opening is a point of pride for Moore and his Vicksburg-based project teams, as the space was painstakingly renovated and, where possible, restored to its original and historic charm. The effort to restore the 103 building is part of a larger community-based endeavor to have the downtown area authorized on the National Register of Historic Places list.

“We’re very excited to open the doors to Mackenzies and show the community our commitment to restoring these wonderful downtown buildings while contributing to its vibrancy,” said Jackie Koney, chief operating officer of Paper City Development, Moore’s Vicksburg-based company. “Frederick Construction, our team, and so many other partners invested so much time to carefully design and build a space that will stand the test of time. We’re eager to get baking and bring smiles to the faces of everyone who walks through the doors!”

For hours, directions and additional information, visit their website: mackenziesbakery.com.

Tournament of Writers names winners

By Alisha Siebers, Executive Director, Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center has wrapped up the eighth season of the Tournament of Writers. This year’s competition drew 57 writers from a wide range of ages, competing for $1,200 in prizes.

The topic of escapism trended in this year’s entries, with many stories and poems about runaways, pirates, princesses, Vikings, space kittens, doppelgangers, and a whole kaleidoscope of monsters. Balancing this escapism were plenty of home-grown tales about wisdom gathered from everyday living. The grand prize went to Rick Chambers, of Portage, who wrote “Tuesday’s Tie,” a short story set in the Netherlands about a somewhat rigid man who wears a specific tie for each day of the week, until he mistakenly wears his Monday tie on Tuesday and discovers that he has traveled back in time one day.

The winners of the 2022 Tournament of Writers are:

Fiction: First Place, Hayden Moden (Junior Division), R.J. Robertson-DeGraaff (Young Adult Division), Dustin Colwell (Adult Division), and Rick Chambers (Senior Division). Second Place, Autumn Wyatt (Jr) tied with Brynn Hayman, Amanda Hamelink (YA), Ross Landers (A), and Jon Adams (Sr). Third Place, Harper Behrens (Jr), Sky Lester (YA), Aaron Kieffer (A), and Fred Zemlick (Sr).

Nonfiction: First Place, Finnegan Ross (Jr), Jacob Miller (YA), Christina Webb (A), and Cynthia Haas (Sr). Second Place, Lillian Ross (Jr), Ransom Biskie (YA), Ross Landers (A), and Jeanne Church (Sr), Third Place, Flora Najdowski (Jr), Kristin Youngs (A), and Mark Giacobone (Sr).

Poetry: First Place, Hayden Moden (Jr), Sydney Kaiser (YA), Kyle Johnson (A), and Jon Adams (Sr). Second Place, Lillian Ross (Jr), Hannah Laughery (YA), Hanna Owens (A), and Mark Giacobone (Sr).Third Place, Rhys Biskie (Jr), Ransom Biskie (YA) tied with Grace Flanagan, Simon Thalmann (A), and Jeanne Church (Sr).

Interested in participating next year or in purchasing the anthology of this year’s participants? Visit vicksburgarts.com/tournament-of-writers.

A senior moment: Time for action

By Danna Downing

Living out “Act III“ of our lives requires planning for uncharted territory and a certain level of bravery. In caring for aging parents, we may get a sense of what lies ahead.

However, each person and each journey are unique. In fact, as we plan for others or ourselves, there are numerous surprises and much over which we have no control. It is never too soon to start thinking about our options and all the possible scenarios that may unfold.

While we may try our best to muster our financial resources, we may still fall short through no fault of our own. We may need assistance from the aging network of services available in our local community, as well as state and federal programs. It is imperative to learn as much as we can about navigating through the ever-changing and complex system of services available to older adults. We need to have a general roadmap of how the aging network operates before circumstances create an emergency. We also need to identify gaps in the system. This gives us the opportunity to plan and advocate for improvements and better access for older adults.

May is an important month for older Michiganians; so important that there is an entire week set aside for celebration and activism on behalf of this growing population. This year May 9 through May 13 has been set aside for this purpose. This year is extra important for older adult advocacy due to the influx of pandemic funds to our state budget process that is slated for completion by July 1.

Michigan is working with other states to create a well-trained and professional source of direct care workers paid a living wage, to fill the 34,000 open slots in Michigan’s direct care worker pool. Michigan has a strong coalition working this critical national issue. Due to COVID, there are one-time resources available to help advance this initiative. Let your leaders know they can assist in solving this problem while creating new job opportunities and better caregiver services.

Eighty-seven percent of all older adults (across all political, educational and income boundaries) prefer to age in their homes. No one likes to think about ending up in a nursing home. Currently nursing home care costs on average $9,000 per month. Compare that to home-based care with long-term services and supports that flow from well-funded community agencies and governmental programs which cost about 40% less. Plus, there are other benefits such as increased comfort, reduced physical and mental health risks and a greater sense of autonomy. Aging experts in Michigan are advocating that our state rebalance this funding to support aging in community. Currently Michigan provides only 37% of its funding for Medicaid for home and community-based services, compared to the national average of 58.6% (2019).

Too many Michigan agencies have waiting lists for services that older adults need to live as independently for as long as possible. In fact, in Michigan, 7,270 seniors are on waiting lists for essential non-Medicaid in-home services, such as home delivered meals, in-home personal care, homemaking and respite care that delay or prevent more costly long-term care interventions. Older adult advocates support the goal of having Michigan achieve the status of becoming a no-wait state which requires increases in the new budget.

Funding mechanisms for supporting aging Michiganians are complex. You may not want or need to get into such complexities. But you may want to ask your community, legislators, and decision makers to remember your needs when they vote on fast-approaching funding and budget appropriations that affect older Michiganians in big ways.

The Michigan Area Agencies on Aging and Aging Network Partners have assembled a toolkit to help you alert community leaders and policy makers about critical senior issues. It includes their Platform for Legislative Action, a sample letter, and social media support for getting out the word. It will also tell you how to join a special Older Michigan Livestream event on May 11. Go to http://www.4ami.org/EVENTS. There will also be a local livestream party at Main Street Pub on May 11 at 11 a.m., with lunch available. For more information, request a packet of information by calling or emailing me at 269-779-5453 or dannadowning@gmail.org.