By Jill Moon
The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Ann Badasch shares her journey as a small business owner in a charming Illinois city.
If she’s at My Just Desserts, she’s helping seat faithful customers, greeting new visitors and cleaning off tables though she sold the restaurant a while ago.
Ann Badasch can’t help herself if she’s at the regionally-and-beyond-well-known eatery, famous for its pies.
Pie maker Yvonne Campbell now owns My Just Desserts, but it’s as if nothing’s changed, except now Badasch will be “working” down the street at the opposite end of Broadway, with her first love of selling antiques.
Badasch, along with her husband, the late Mark Badasch, came to Alton originally to sell antiques in 1982, at a time when antique shops lined six to eight blocks of Broadway.
“You had to be on a waiting list. I had an antique shop in the basement of this building,” Badasch recalled when she met The Telegraph at My Just Desserts, 31 E. Broadway, there for lunch for the first time since she officially sold the business July 2.
Now she has a space at Country Meadows Antiques, 401 E. Broadway, owned by longtime friends Pam and Gary Voyles.
The trio go back a long way in the trade that started Badasch’s love affair with Alton.
“It was us, Steve Taylor, Bill Sloan; that’s all who’s left,” she noted.
The Badasches rented the basement of the My Just Desserts building from its original owners, Sam and Harriet Hunter, where the Hunters established House of the Hunter Antiques in the now-restaurant space.
“I wanted to be on this street, just with the energy and the shops,” Badasch said. “I’ve seen a lot of highs and lows on Broadway. In the eighties, there were a lot of antique festivals and antique fairs. Now, that I sold My Just Desserts, I’m back into antiques.”
And, still involved in a love affair with Alton and greater Alton’s tourism.
“I truly believe tourism is the key to this region,” said Badasch, who’s been involved with Alton tourism since the days of Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson. “We have a great bureau here and a lot of entrepreneurs on a small budget trying to do big things — sometimes they succeed. We’re in a revitalization period again, especially with the Small Business Revolution we just experienced.”
Not only does Badasch’s return to antiques continue the city’s antiques tradition, but also its specialty retail tradition, which Badasch also wholeheartedly believes in.
“I would like to see more retail on this street, but I think the days of retail are slim to none. Women like to shop, but have to have a place to shop. We need more, but I don’t know how to get it here.”
She’s thought about it, though.
“Small business works best, with our mall situation,” she noted. “The mall could be an incubator, for new ideas, to make new ideas more affordable. People come to me with their ideas and I don’t rain on anybody’s parade — if you believe in something and are willing to work hard to make it work, who am I to say what will bring us back for more. We keep trying.”
The Badasches sold off their antiques to buy the House of Hunter building in 1988 to house a restaurant, which Ann Badasch founded with Kathy Stine.
“She actually wanted to open a restaurant; I supported her in getting it started,” she said. “I knew the importance of a restaurant here. That’s why I’m going back to antiques, because that’s what I used to do. My husband and I put a hold on that because of the restaurant business.”
That same sentiment infuses Badasch’s support of Campbell, 40, who began working at My Just Desserts when she was 15 years old. The pair are like family. Campbell left My Just Desserts at age 21 to go to college, where she earned culinary degrees, and eventually start her own family.
Baker Liz Hyde, whose recipes made My Just Desserts’ pies famous, retired five years ago.
Until Campbell came back, no one passed Hyde’s muster to take over pie-making at the restaurant.
Once Campbell mastered Hyde’s techniques to Hyde’s satisfaction, for a seamless transition in which customers could taste or see no difference in My Just Desserts’ products, Hyde decided to retire.
The plan worked beautifully.
“We found My Just Desserts early on,” said 10.5-years-faithful customers Doug and Maureen Beyer, of Grand Junction, Colorado, with their son Cameron Beyer, of Godfrey, who lives at Beverly Farm. “We come here two times a year for Family Weekend and always eat here. My Just Desserts is a destination.”
The Beyers have seen a lot of changes in Alton over the years.
“Every year we come back, we see new businesses, real positive changes in your town. We’re happy for you,” Doug Beyer said
Badasch wants to see positive changes continue, especially for My Just Desserts’ new owner.
“I truly want Yvonne to be successful. She already has her outstanding customer service skills; she’ll hone her business skills here,” Badasch said. “We want the community to support her.”
During the Badasches full-time restaurant phase of My Just Desserts — which included a spell in Elsah (2000 — 2008) — they kept their feet in the specialty retail business, selling repurposed tables and chairs, even though “repurposed” wasn’t a “thing” then, as it is now, along with a small spattering of antiques.
“As those involved know, antiques never get out of your blood,” Badasch noted.
Badasch planned all along to retire around this time and went ahead with the plan, despite the passing of her beloved husband.
Mark was a municipal park director in Madison County, where his wife still lives, until he retired seven years ago.
The couple has three children: Mike, Josh and Megan, as well as five grandchildren.
“It was a good plan, it was a good time for me, it was a good time for Yvonne. With the ‘Revolution’ in town, it was a very good time for her,” she said.
Campbell will hold a three-day My Just Desserts relaunch event Friday, Aug. 10, through Sunday, Aug. 12.
Besides Badasch’s return to antiques, she’s enjoying other retirement perks.