The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

Pastry Shop Strugglebeard Bakery Opens in Harper Court

Founder Quinton McNair hosted a soft opening displaying the bakery’s wide menu, loyalty program, and social media presence.
The+artwork+in+Strugglebeard+Bakery.
Derek Hsu
The artwork in Strugglebeard Bakery.

Strugglebeard Bakery, a new pastry shop located in Harper Court, hosted its soft opening on October 14. Located at the intersection of East 53rd Street and Harper Avenue, the bakery boasts a menu with over 10 cookie options and other bakery classics, including cupcakes, muffins, and coffee.

Founder and owner of Strugglebeard Bakery Quinton McNair first began baking during quarantine. His passion soon turned into a business model. “When I started this journey, I would share my process and use #strugglebeardbakery online. It was my way of reaching out to the world during quarantine,” he said in an interview with The Maroon. The hashtag #strugglebeardbakery originates from his difficulty of growing out a full beard.

McNair would bake as often as five days a week and consistently recorded his improvement to his viewers. “Once I perfected the recipes, I started making my own,” he said. Within 18 months, McNair was shipping all over the country and had enough interest to open a store.

Prior to his culinary pursuits, McNair served in the military for 24 years. Through the various responsibilities of an artilleryman, helicopter mechanic, and drill sergeant, he honed skills applicable to owning a business. “The same attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, and almost obsession for perfection that served me as a helicopter mechanic and technical inspector serves me for building this place out and baking,” he said.

McNair also managed the sexual assault and sexual harassment program for a big company unit for four to five years. As a “child of Chicago” who wished he had had more adult guidance, McNair hopes to give back by facilitating conversations about healthy relationships and consent. He plans to implement the program Be A King Everyday (BAKE), which focuses on uplifting young Black men. Through baking with participants, McNair aspires to destigmatize feminine things like baking with being less of a man.

“I’d like to be a healthy member of Hyde Park [by] bringing business and providing jobs to support the community itself,” McNair said.

As he narrowed his search for a storefront, McNair found Hyde Park to be the perfect neighborhood. The bakery’s interior aligns with the artistic identity of Hyde Park, with local art decorating the walls. “This is the type of bakery where I want you to come in, sit down, use the free Wi-Fi, have student meetings, make TikToks, and enjoy the baked goods,” McNair said.

Inside, baked goods decorate the display cases. Cookies are the highlight of the menu, featuring unique flavors and names such as Charles Anthony Pecan and Chocolate Chunk, Redder Fox Red Velvet, and James “Tod” Miles Limoncello. The bakery also offers vegan cookies such as The Hipster Oatmeal Raisin.

Second-year Connor McNamee was one of Strugglebeard’s first customers. He bought the B3 (Big Belly & Beardless) Peanut Butter and Chocolate cookie. Described as the “cookie your parents warned you about,” this peanut butter dessert is infused with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanut butter cups, and chocolate liquor.

“Compared to other bakeries, it’s worth the walk from campus,” McNamee said. “I’d purchase the Big Belly cookie again.”

Second-year Sahil Agrawal shared similar sentiments about the bakery’s cookies. Agrawal purchased the Chief Bartley Salted Caramel Oatmeal cookie, a flurry of sea salt, salted caramel whiskey, and oatmeal. “Nearly every cookie can be made hot and gooey, but only Strugglebeard has been able to capture the oatmeal and sea salt together,” Agrawal said.

Both Agarwal and McNamee plan to taste the other cookie flavors throughout the remainder of the quarter.

In the future, McNair plans to build on the momentum of the soft opening of his bakery and have themed nights, such as an event for anime lovers. Ultimately, McNair hopes that Strugglebeard Bakery is a place that people have to visit when they come to Hyde Park.

Strugglebeard Bakery is currently hiring people 18 and older for assistant baker and front-house positions. They can be found via their website and also have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. They are open 7–5 p.m. on Tuesdays-Fridays, 10–6 p.m. on weekends, and closed on Mondays.

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