Owner of $100m The Mill in Vicksburg re-opens beloved Southwest Michigan bakery in Vicksburg

Crispy Italian. Baguettes. Struan.

For patrons of the former MacKenzie’s bakery in Kalamazoo, the menu chalkboard at the bakery’s new location in Vicksburg reads like a dream come true.

For a year, they have gone without their favorite artisanal products from the former MacKenzie’s Bakery.

As of Thursday, April 14, it’s all back — in a new location with a slightly different name, but with the same recipes, smells and even some staff from the former locations on West Main and Ransom streets in Kalamazoo.

Chris Moore, owner of The Mill in Vicksburg,  purchased the bakery a year ago and his hope is that the new 1,700 square-foot space at 103 E. Prairie Street will serve as a magnet to attract more people to the historic downtown area. 

Jackie Koney, COO of Moore’s Vicksburg company, Paper City Development LLC, says she and bakery general manager Jill Younger met to debrief after the opening day of business.

Vicksburg bakery general manager Jill Younger was a longtine MacKenzie's Bakery employeee in Kalamazoo.“We were thrilled with our first day!” Koney says. “We think more than 600 people came in throughout the day and we estimate that it was a pretty even split between locals and those coming from other places.  There were a few folks waiting for the doors to open and we had a very steady flow all day.”

Some of the first people in the door were from Plainwell and others came from Portage, Kalamazoo, Lawton, Paw Paw, Mattawan, Three Rivers, and Otsego — to name a few, she says. 

“Everyone was so happy to get the bread they love and missed so much. Some tasted their bread right away and told us it tasted perfect — exactly as they remember.  Just what we wanted to hear!”

The bakery sold out of almost everything the first day — only a few loaves of bread were left. The first breads to sell out — the baguette, with Struan right behind.

Same smells and tastes, new home 

The recipes are the same, but the space has some new twists, in addition to its location in Vicksburg’s historic downtown, just 12 miles south of Kalamazoo.

The new Vicksburg location is starting with breads, cookies, muffins, jams, and coffee, and includes plans for a wholesale operation as well.

Mackenzie interior counterVicki Deal, who has lived near the village since 1974, is thrilled that the bakery where she used to get the family’s birthday cakes is now right downtown. 

“I went to MacKenzie’s a lot when they were in Kalamazoo,” Deal says. “I loved their coffee cakes, donuts, and birthday cakes. 

“I would get my grandkids their frosted sugar cookies on holidays, and their breads are just so good.”

Deal says she hopes the Vicksburg location will expand on the current lineup of breads and baked goods.

For now, though, “I’m just thrilled we have a Mackenzies again,” Deal says. “I love everything they have!!

Head Baker Cris Najar from the former MacKenzie's Bakery in Kalamazoo was hired to to manage daily operations in Vicksburge Koney says the current focus will be on bread, cookies and muffins.  “We'll likely expand to more products relatively soon and although we may make stock cakes, we don't plan to do custom cakes,” she says. “We appreciate everyone's patience as we figure out how much of each type of bread to bake every day.”

One piece of the big picture

The bakery is just one piece of Vicksburg native Moore’s multi-year, $100 million renovation of the former paper mill on the village’s west end into a mixed-use attraction named The Mill at Vicksburg. With that project being several years in the making, Moore is pursuing smaller projects in Vicksburg that pair well with the Mill’s destination goals.

Events at The Mill in Vicksburg thus far have included programs for artists and musicians, children’s nature walks, and a student internship.

“I fondly remember walking with grade school classmates to downtown Vicksburg with a quarter in hand excited to buy a turnover from Otto’s Bakery,” Moore says. “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 to provide consultation and hired two long-time MacKenzie’s employees to manage daily operations — Younger, and Head Baker Cris Najar.

Younger, a resident of Portage, began her career 22 years ago at the retail counter of MacKenzie’s Bakery. She says she is thrilled to continue the MacKenzie’s legacy in the Village of Vicksburg where she will welcome a new community of bakery enthusiasts.

After and before shots of the renovations that went into Mackenzies in downtown Vicksburg.“I promise that no matter how you interact with Mackenzies that you will get delicious baked goods and service that makes you feel like you’ve found a home away from home,” Younger says.

Najar, of Kalamazoo, started his career working at a variety of restaurants in his hometown of Chicago before making the switch to baking — a practice he fell in love with. 

“I am thrilled to return to the kitchen and continue the tradition of creating Mackenzie’s bread and treats,” said Najar. 
“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,” Koney says.

For hours, directions, and additional information, visit the bakery's website here.
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Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.