Peek Inside the New Mackenzies Bakery
Mackenzies Bakery will be the newest addition to the Village of Vicksburg! When the beloved Kalamazoo bakery closed its doors in 2020, Chris Moore knew it was a company worth saving. He grew up enjoying their baked goods as a child and jumped at the chance to revitalize the brand with a fresh, modern twist.
We sat down with Jill Younger and Cris Najar—Mackenzies Bakery Production Manager and Head Baker—to learn more about the new Mackenzies coming to downtown Vicksburg. We’re fortunate to welcome this talented duo from the former MacKenzie's in Kalamazoo as they bring the new iteration of this beloved bakery to 103 E. Prairie Street!
Where are you from originally?
Jill: I grew up in Gobles/Bloomingdale area of MI.
Cris: I grew up in Chicago, Illinois.
Where do you live now?
J: I currently live in Portage, MI.
C: I live in Kalamazoo, MI.
How long did you work at MacKenzie’s Bakery in Kalamazoo?
J: I started in 2000.
C: I started in 2009.
Have you always been in the baking business?
J: No, I had worked retail previously and then switched to bakery retail, then moved my way up in the company.
C: I was working in restaurants—mostly fast food—in Chicago and then out of nowhere just decided to get into baking.
What has your path been with MacKenzie's Bakery?
J: I started off in retail selling pastries and other goods. Then I moved behind the scenes taking orders, assisting customers, and unloading trucks when they came in. I started running the deli department and eventually began overseeing all the production.
C: I started off on the bench, molding bread by hand. Then, John (MacKenzie) showed me how to make pastries and fry donuts among other things. Day by day, I was learning new techniques from John and Jill.
What were your favorite items from the old MacKenzie's Bakery?
J: Everything was a favorite. I miss our struan bread the most and our donuts. Those are the top two categories that I miss most.
C: I miss the french baguettes and the cheddar pretzel bread.
Are you bringing any of those items over to new Mackenzies?
J: Yes. Our primary focus to start will be bread. Our goal will be to add to the great bread options that we had been making before and bring back all the favorites that people in the community had been missing.
What are you most excited about with this new iteration?
J: I’m really excited about the chance to do some new and different things. It’s exciting to get to pay homage to the legacy that John built and carry it on, but also to have the chance to do something new and slightly different. I always felt like MacKenzie's was its own best-kept secret and now we have the opportunity to share that secret with more people outside of our little corner and this state. When The Mill opens we have the opportunity for so many people to get to experience what we’re about.
C: I’m excited to hopefully expand the production of breads and get it out there. I’m ready for some new adventures and excited to work with Chris Moore and The Mill and be part of the family.
Why do you think people loved MacKenzie's so much?
J: I think a lot of it had to do with consistency and tradition. People knew they could come in and get good products every time. That tradition was passed down and a big part of why people loved MacKenzie's.
C: I think because it’s a family-owned bakery. The MacKenzie family has been around for a long time and their bread has been in Kalamazoo for 40 years, so people know what to expect and taste. People have been asking to bring it back, and I’m glad we get to do that.
What has it been like being involved in the design of a space?
J: It’s exciting because on one side we’ve been part of the MacKenzie's business for so long so we know that part of it really well, but we weren’t on staff when the bakery started. Getting the chance to be a part of this brand from the start and provide input, then get to watch it grow is thrilling.
C: To me, it’s been interesting. It’s like a newborn baby—you get to see it develop and grow and that’s what I’m looking forward to.
What do you think the reaction will be from Vicksburg customers?
J: I think they’ll really like it. The few times I’ve been in town, everybody has been very warm and welcoming and they seem excited for us to open. I’m hoping they’re just as excited as we are and that people in the surrounding communities haven’t forgotten who we are and what we’re about and that they’ll get to have their Mackenzies bread again!
What has it been like learning about all of Chris Moore’s entrepreneurial ventures in Vicksburg?
J: It’s very impressive and I think it speaks a lot to the person that he is—to be filling the town with the intention of making a difference and impact in so many areas and having it be about supporting and helping the community thrive. This is what community should be about and it’s great that there’s somebody who cares enough about the area that wants to invest in that.
C: Living in Kalamazoo I’ve seen Bell’s Brewery and everything else, but being from Chicago and seeing something like this here, for me, it’s amazing and pretty badass. I’m impressed and blown away with how much Chris has going on.
Had you heard of Chris Moore or The Mill at Vicksburg prior to the acquisition?
J: I had not. I was never really familiar with this area, but when they approached us and we started hearing more about it, the whole realm of everything was so fascinating to me. In my opinion, it’s a really well-kept secret, but hopefully, word will be getting out more and more, and with the combination of the bakery, I hope that brings attention to The Mill project.
C: I had heard rumors about Vicksburg and a mill and Chris, but I never quite paid attention until I realized they’d reached out to us to be part of the family—and I was like “wow.” Words can’t describe it, you know, from how Chris started—putting his way through college—to where he is now. He is an entrepreneur—a very clever, wise, intelligent guy.
Cris: What is your favorite bread to bake and why?
C: My favorite bread to bake was our specialty breads. Every weekend we used to do feature breads, and from the making and molding to the baking and cutting designs, it felt like being an artist. I miss doing the fancy work and being creative. It was rewarding to have people enjoy and compliment my work. We will continue the specialties in the new iteration.
Jill: How did you get into production management and what are you most excited about moving with Mackenzies to Vicksburg?
J: I think it was just a natural progression. I like the challenge of taking on more and getting things done. There was a need for someone to take responsibility for what was going on so John wouldn’t have to be there 24/7, so I just kind of rolled into that position and I enjoyed doing what I did.
C: People saw her as an alpha. They respected her and looked up to her. She was like a mom to everyone.
Any additional comments/stories you’d like to share?
J: This past year has definitely been a struggle but I’m really excited and happy to be a part of this venture. I feel like we couldn’t have landed in a better spot.
C: Just waiting for a new adventure and chapter in my life to start.
Jill Younger began her career at MacKenzie's Bakery in 2000 at the retail counter learning the importance of taking care of customers. A natural leader and problem solver, Jill progressed to her current role as Production Manager, where she successfully leads her team of bakers.
In her two decades helping to grow this Kalamazoo-based company, Jill has welcomed a community of regulars and new customers through the doors to enjoy the consistency and tradition that is MacKenzie's. Now she is thrilled to continue the Mackenzies legacy in the Village of Vicksburg where she will welcome a brand-new community of bakery enthusiasts.
Cris Najar is a skilled baker with a passion for incorporating art into pastry-making. He started his career in the culinary industry, working at a variety of restaurants in his hometown of Chicago before making the switch to baking—a practice he fell in love with. Cris began his career at MacKenzie's Bakery in 2009 as a bench worker and he quickly expanded his skillset to eventually become Head Baker.
Excited for the adventures to come with the new Mackenzies Bakery in Vicksburg, Cris is thrilled to return to the kitchen and continue his tradition of serving specialty breads. It’s there that he puts his artistry into practice with intricate designs and flavors. As Mackenzies Bakery settles into Downtown Vicksburg, Cris looks forward to sharing his creations with a new group of baked-good lovers.