Smile Politely

Meet the new owner of Hopscotch Bakery

Alyssa Buckley

Hopscotch Bakery + Market has a new owner: Jenny Kim. She’s a big fan of Hopscotch and hopes to keep all of the neighborhood spot‘s charm in the John Street bakery’s next chapter. Seven years ago, Hopscotch opened their Champaign brick-and-mortar location in 2017, after first operating as a pastry vendor at the farmers market, and the cute corner bakery continues to be a destination for coffee, tea, croissants, breakfast sandwiches, quiche, tartine, and other beautiful baked goods.

I sat down with Hopscotch’s new owner to learn what’s changing, what’s staying the same, and what she recommends from the menu.

The exterior of Hopscotch Bakery & Market, a gray-painted brick corner buidling.
Alyssa Buckley

Smile Politely: You’re the new owner of Hopscotch! Tell me, how did that come to be?

Jenny Kim: I’ve lived in the Champaign-Urbana community for ten years now. I got my bachelors here at the University [of Illinois], and I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for years. If your readers recognize me, it will probably be from Seven Saints or other places around town.

I love this community, and I love the people of Champaign. I found my home here; I found my husband here. Most recently, I helped open The Literary as their general manager back in 2021. I’d been a long-time Hopscotch fan before that, both before and during the pandemic when it was just online ordering. When I was hired at the Literary, that’s when I met Kaya [Speagle, original owner of Hopscotch], and we worked closely alongside each other. I was on the bookstore and bar side, and at the time, Hopscotch was doing the food, pastries, and coffee. And it’s funny because Kaya recognized my name from my online orders at Hopscotch! I really enjoyed working at The Literary, one of the best work experiences that I’ve had. It was so much fun to help open that business and work with great leaders.

Then I left to join the corporate world at a tech company, but when Kaya announced that Hopscotch was going up for sale — which wasn’t entirely unexpected since I knew she’d been planning to move with her family back to where she’s from — there were various stars that aligned that I was like, oh my gosh. I had already thought to myself that I’d like to have my own business someday, and my skill set just lined up. I knew that we were similar in the way that we worked and that I could learn a lot from Kaya, so I put my name in and the rest is history.

A black wall with a minimalist line drawing of a bunny above an orange velvet couch.
Alyssa Buckley

SP: What was that like, putting in the offer?

Kim: It doesn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real. I’ve been such a fan of Hopscotch for such a long time, and this feels like some other worldly thing. It just happened — I just don’t think I’d have been able to do this at any other point in my life. Skill-wise but also in terms of experience and my own confidence to lead a team, it all kind of converged. If it worked out, it could be great, you know?

SP: So what’s going to change? What’s going to be the same now with you as the new owner?

Kim: The biggest thing I’m reassuring people is that Hopscotch is not going anywhere, first of all. At its core, not a whole lot is going to change. I am buying it because I love the vision Kaya and Kelly [Hieronymus Whiting] had: for this to be a corner neighborhood bakery. For us to serve our neighbors, be next to a school, people can walk their dogs and grab a coffee — that’s what I love about it, so I have no intent to change that.

We extended the hours just a couple months ago, and that was the main thing, honestly. Just to be open more hours of the day. It’s a strong team here, and everyone is staying. There are great people who work here.

The only changes, my hope at least, is to be more involved and out in the community. I would love to get back to farmers markets, which is where Hopscotch originally started. I’d like to partner with local organizations, helping out with the school. I love Champaign, so I just want to contribute in whatever way I can.

The interior of a coffee shop with hexagon brown and white tiles.
Alyssa Buckley

SP: What about the menu?

Kim: The menu is staying. I love the croissants. Kaya came from a culinary experience as owner, and my experience is years working front of house. My experience is with the guest experience, the public-facing service. As we go, we will have menu development, exploring all the different recipes Hopscotch has had over the years and streamlining the menu.

SP: You’re a regular here, so can you share with readers your go to coffee order?

Kim: I’m so boring! Most times, nine out of ten days, I’m drinking black coffee, drip coffee — a nice roasty, toasty dark roast coffee. But when I’m feeling like a little pick-me-up, I’ll get a London Fog latte, that tea with some lavender and hone. It’s so good!

SP: What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?

Kim: I have been loving berries and lavender. I love those floral spring flavors. I like chamomile; it can be nice in a cookie or cupcake. Also it’s summer, so strawberry rhubarb, too. I love rhubarb.

The interior of a coffee shop with plants in pots and several trinkets and chocolates for sale.
Alyssa Buckley

SP: What can customers expect under Hopscotch’s new ownership?

Kim: You’ll see my face around the shop. This summer, my focus will be on the basics and elevating the guest experience, making sure people feel welcome coming here, all the things that Hopscotch already has a solid foundation in. People should feel comfortable to come in. I want this to be a communal space, whether you’re getting through a workday or stopping by with family and friends.

This summer I am taking a lot of feedback from the community. No immediate changes, but if readers have thoughts, they should come talk to me in person or email me. So far, there’s been such great support, and I know that people love Hopscotch. People didn’t know what to expect when it went up for sale, but it seems that people are happy that it’s still here, but I want people to tell me what they love about it or what could be improved.

SP: Lastly, what would you recommend to someone who is new to Hopscotch try?

Kim: Anytime it’s someone’s first time, I always recommend a croissant because that’s what got me to fall in love with Hopscotch. They are sourdough croissants, so they have a little bit more flavor — that’s what distinguishes them from other great croissants in town. Look, this is a tight-knit community, and there are things that I enjoy at other bakeries. We’re going to do things our way, and they’re going to do things their way, and it’s great that there’s so many options. A rising tide really does lift all boats.

SP: Plain croissant or filled?

Kim: I would say the ham and havarti croissant is my favorite. I like a savory pastry in the morning, so that or a spinach-feta croissant roll. A lot of people love our scones because they’re made with like 90% butter. They’re soft and can be warmed up a little bit, so it melts in your mouth.

Patio chairs sit empty along a building with painted floral windows.
Alyssa Buckley

Hopscotch Bakery + Market
802 W John St
T-Su 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

More Articles