Mackenzies Vicksburg taps longtime Kalamazoo staffers to run bakery

Jill Younger. Courtesy Mackenzies Vicksburg

Five months after Vicksburg native Chris Moore acquired the assets of Kalamazoo’s MacKenzie’s Bakery, the business now called Mackenzies Vicksburg has appointed two longtime Kalamazoo staffers to run the new location.

Jill Younger will serve as production manager, and Cris Najar will be head baker.

Younger, a resident of Portage, began her career at MacKenzie’s Bakery in 2000 at the retail counter. Described as a natural leader and problem solver, she progressed to her current role as production manager at Mackenzies, leading a team of bakers.

In her two decades helping to grow the company, Younger welcomed a community of regulars and new customers through the doors. Now, she said she is thrilled to continue the bakery’s legacy in the village of Vicksburg, where she will welcome a brand-new community of baked goods enthusiasts.

Najar, of Kalamazoo, is a skilled baker who said he possesses 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.

Cris Najar. Courtesy Mackenzies Vicksburg

Najar began his career at MacKenzie’s Bakery in 2009 as a bench worker and quickly expanded his skillset to eventually become head baker at Mackenzies. Excited for the adventures to come with the new Mackenzies in Vicksburg, he said he is “thrilled to return to the kitchen and continue his tradition of serving specialty breads” with intricate designs and flavors.

Mackenzies Vicksburg is scheduled to open in early 2022 at a Moore-owned property, 103 E. Prairie St., in downtown Vicksburg. The 1,700-square-foot location will primarily serve as a kitchen and distribution facility, but the bakery may eventually offer retail products via a small storefront space.

The building is attached to 101 E. Prairie, which Moore also owns. The facades of the adjoining two-story buildings have been restored and are a part of Moore’s mission to revitalize downtown Vicksburg and restore many of its original buildings into historic centerpieces.

Moore, the owner of the $80 million mixed-use The Mill at Vicksburg project currently undergoing renovations on the west end of the village, grew up enjoying MacKenzie’s baked goods and jumped at the chance to revitalize the brand and help bring more business to the 3,400-person village about 12 miles south of Kalamazoo.

“There is a lot to be determined regarding this transaction, but one thing is for sure, downtown Vicksburg is going to smell great with the aroma of Mackenzies bread,” said Moore, who resides in Seattle, where he operates his businesses Concord Technologies and Old Stove Brewing but frequently visits Vicksburg for extended periods.

Additional full- and part-time staff will be hired to manage daily operations.

Mackenzies Vicksburg expects to share more information soon at about opening dates and product offerings.

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