After a year of planning and preparation, Omar Oliveras was finally ready to open his business.
The Puerto Rican native had moved to the South Bend area five years ago after initially visiting family for vacation and deciding to stay. He found the nearest Puerto Rican bakery and restaurant was in Chicago, two hours away, and he wanted to do something to change that.
“I just got inspired to open a bakery for all of the Puerto Ricans in the area,” Oliveras said.
Oliveras took over a former Jordan’s Fish and Chicken carryout building at 1107 Lincoln Way W., just west of downtown South Bend, and transformed it into Puerto Rican Bakery and Coffee Shop. The restaurant and bakery opened Feb. 29 and things took off.
“Business was really good and we were busy, busy, busy,” Oliveras said. “There were times that we ran out of things.”
The new business offers authentic Puerto Rican baked items, such as guava turnovers, sugar doughnuts made with a special flour, and a flaky cream cheese filled pastry called quesitos.
Oliveras also bakes fresh bread daily, like pan sobao and pan de agua. He uses the bread to then create breakfast, lunch and dinner sandwiches such as a Cubano made with ham, pork, cheese and mustard, a boris sandwich made with pork, turkey, bacon ham and mortadella and a ham egg and cheese sandwich.
The business also sells munchies, knicknacks and coffee from Puerto Rico in order to offer a piece of home, Oliveras said.
Oliveras estimates that he had about a thousand customers in the first few weeks of business, but then concerns about the coronavirus started to dissuade customers from visiting.
Two weeks since the pandemic initially took root in the U.S., Oliveras admits he is worried about his new business’s future especially during a time when people are encouraged to venture out only for necessary travel.
“This is really overwhelming,” Oliveras said. “I wasn’t expecting business to go down as much but I have my hopes up and I hope the bakery still brings people together.”
In response, Oliveras has started making fewer items so not to waste food, but says his business’s modest building was set up for carryout and drive-thru services so he still plans to be open during the uncertain times.
He has tried to keep things light and stay connected with his customers, many of whom are a part of a tight knit Puerto Rican community, by posting social media videos about what he is working on for the day.
But he is also looking toward the future. Oliveras said he plans to update the building when he can and is still raising money to get proper signage so cars passing by are able to see his new bakery.
“We’re here to serve others and I know there is a lot of worry with everything, but we are trying to be as clean as possible,” he said “And I still want to serve good quality to people despite all of this going on.”
Puerto Rican Bakery and Coffee Shop is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To order ahead, call 574-300-1110.
Have you heard?
Many restaurants and bars are still offering carryout and delivery services, while others have decided to cease operations for a variety of reasons. To check out a list that has been continuously updated to reflect the changes of what local restaurants are offering during these uncertain times, visit southbendtribune.com/marketbasket.
Source: Thanks https://www.southbendtribune.com/news/business/marketbasket/authentic-puerto-rican-bakery-and-coffee-shop-opens-just-weeks/article_2302f07a-7045-11ea-ad8b-43300e9bed27.html