Famous for her pies and chicken salad sandwiches, Ann Badasch, the force behind My Just Desserts on Broadway in Alton, has been instrumental in developing the fabric of the region.
“When I first came here in 1979, Broadway was filled with antique stores and customers. You felt such energy. You had to get on a waiting list to be able to rent a storefront,” she remembers.
Badasch joined the excitement on Broadway with a chair caning/antique store in the basement of her current business. My Just Desserts was born a short time later when co-antiquer and friend Kathy Stine suggested they open a restaurant and antique store in another location.
“We put My Just Desserts on one side of the store and Cane Bottom Antiques on the other,” Badasch said. “When we opened My Just Desserts it was the first restaurant on Broadway. You couldn’t even find a soda machine on the street.”
The two women expanded their business into a larger building in 1986 and at that time Kathy Stein announced she was moving to Pennsylvania and encouraged Badasch to continue running the restaurant and antique store. Overwhelmed by the prospect, Badasch put her efforts into baking and selling antiques. Badasch did all the baking in the evening in her South Roxana home bringing the delectable delights to the restaurant which was only open on Friday, Saturday and Sundays.
In 1988, she purchased the building which currently houses My Just Desserts and converted the business to a seven day a week restaurant serving lunches and desserts. Badasch quit selling antiques to focus on the restaurant side.
It was also during this transition that Badasch was exposed to the value of tourism and realized that was the secret to success for businesses in the region.
“I can remember when Gov. Thompson announced that Illinois was going to be involved in tourism,” she said. “I knew then it was something I wanted to be involved in. I saw tourism as the way to go from the very beginning.
As economic downturns hit the region over the last three decades, Badasch pointed out that tourism helped businesses rebound. And though the Broadway antique district is significantly smaller than it was 30 years ago, it’s still a strong retail area for the city.
“You have to promote the community and everyone around you,” Badasch said. “It’s a team sport. If another business is successful, then I am successful.”
Passionate about the Broadway district, Badasch said she believes that customer service is the key to her success, not necessarily her homemade pies, soups and sandwiches. “Food is important but it’s really the customer service that brings people back,” she pointed out.