Local Hero: Michelle Garcia

Gozamos April 11, 2010
All images courtesy of  The Bleeding Heart Bakery
The Bleeding Heart Bakery opened in a tiny stand at a humble farmers market in 2004 and has grown into a cupcake empire with two freestanding bakeries, a cook book coming out this month and a huge cult of icing-smeared followers. The bakeries use local, organic, and sustainable ingredients to provide scrumptious pastries with punk rock flavors (this month’s cupcakes include Strawberry Shortcake, Veruca Salt, Chocolate Peanut Butter Bacon amongst others). Michelle Garcia, co-owner alongside husband Vinny, takes time out from her busy bakery schedule to answer some of our questions.
Who is your favorite fictional hero?
I always loved Punky Brewster.
When your friends come to visit Chicago, how do you show them a good time?
Food is always the focus — Kuma’s Corner, Hot Dougs and Club Foot or The Exit for drinks. Lately, I have been going to the Fifty/50 a lot.  The guys that own it are really awesome and the drinks rock.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
No responsibilities. I did whatever I wanted and no one could really say anything about it.
What’s the best part about being a grown-up?
The best part of being grown up has to be my kids…..I would say owning a business…but that’s pretty stressful and not as joyous as one would think.
What is the worst part of your job?
The worst part of owning this place is also the best: I’m in the public spotlight all the time, I never really get a minute to breathe, I constantly have to be watching myself. It does really great things for the business, but there are a lot of haters who are like bottom feeders just waiting for me to drop.
What part of your personality do you most want to be remembered for?
I want to be most known for my understanding. I really have been through it all, so there is nothing people can do that really surprises me or that I don’t understand. I don’t judge, ever, I just deal and move on. I’m incredibly tolerant of people.
What was the best road trip you’ve ever taken?
The best road trip was Chicago to Atlanta 1999 with my now husband, but we were just dating then. We went to the Beer Olympics and it just ruled. Three days, over 30 bands… We had such a good time, met amazing people and I learned a very important lesson about credit cards….don’t max them out in 2 days.
You wouldn’t be caught dead, where?
I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Wal-Mart. I really, really hate Wal-Mart. I will happily buy something more expensive at a mom and pop place right next door.
How do you spend your days off?
Honestly, I don’t take days off. When I’m not here, I’m at a Food Network Challenge. But if I could, I would hang out with my kids watching cartoons or going to the park.
What is your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate?
My favorite holiday is Halloween. Halloween rules. We get to make all kinds of ghoulish stuff and it is so awesome to hang out and dress up with my kids. They are big Tim Burton fans and they start planning for Halloween in the summer!
What’s the best rumor you’ve ever heard about yourself?
That I’m mean. I hear it a lot, but no one ever knows where they heard it from.
What book has changed your life the most?
American Skin. I really loved that book. I know a lot of the people in it, but it was written about the generation of street kids before mine in Chicago. It helped me understand a bit more where I came from and why I believe in things I have always stuck to…not knowing why.
What’s your personal motto?
Shut up and Bake. Really.