Delicias Bakery offers variety

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With one sign and its foot-and-a-half-tall lettering “BAKERY” and another sign sporting “Free Coffee,” it’s hard to miss Delicias Bakery Cafe in Belen.

Owner Aldo Garcia spent two months renovating the small building on South Main Street, which has housed many businesses over the decades, from a little cafe, where old-timers remember buying hot dogs for a dime apiece, to a tattoo parlor.

Janis Marston-News-Bulletin photo: BAKER ALDO GARCIA, left, serves customer Bill Wetzel, a railroad man from Winslow, Ariz., at Garcia’s Delicias Bakery Cafe in Belen.

Garcia knocked down walls, put in a kitchen and floor drains, and installed display cabinets as well as a commercial sink and two ovens. Baker’s racks and a few tables and chairs completed the remodeling job.

During those two months, he watched two restaurants open and close.

That gave him pause. But he didn’t quit.

“I thought it’d be a real hard challenge,” Garcia said of making a go of his bakery. “And it is.”

Garcia, 42, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in Los Angeles. His father moved to Casa Colorada after retiring and Garcia decided to be closer to his dad.

He thought out opening a business here much like someone maps out a trip.

“I didn’t want to compete with anyone,” he said, so he studied what shops were already here.

Becoming a butcher was one idea, but Belen already had a meat market. He thought about a tortilla factory, but the machine he had in mind wasn’t up to health department standards.

“I thought, ‘I can bake.’ And there’s no bakery in Belen,” Garcia said.

Delicias opened in May. Garcia’s learning process began immediately.

The almost 5,000-foot difference in altitude between Los Angeles, where he learned to bake, and Belen, took about a week of recipe-adjusting, Garcia said.

Through trial and error, and a lot of patience, Garcia discovered some recipes need more flour, some need less sugar and some need a tweak with the yeast.

Bagels still can be tricky and Garcia says he’s learned how finicky yeast can be.

What’s his most enjoyable recipe?

“The crispies are pretty fun to make,” he said, noting sometimes getting the dough just right can be a challenge.

He rolls out the dough in sugar before the flaky, sugar-and-cinnamon pastries go into the oven.

Garcia works seven days a week, running the shop by himself. He closed for Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and expects to do the same for Christmas.

“The rest of the time, I’m here,” he said.

Up at 5 a.m., he gets to the bakery at 6. He mixes ingredients the day before, so he can start baking as soon as he arrives to have fresh-baked goods ready when the shop opens.

If something is selling, he will bake throughout the day, to replenish the shelves — like doughnuts. At first, Garcia didn’t make doughnuts. But customers kept asking for them and they’ve become a top-seller.

Along with doughnuts and crispies, fruit-filled empanadas, cinnamon rolls and cookies, filled the shelves on a rather slow Monday morning.

Garcia said he is still learning what the customers want. There have been requests for nut breads, canolis and dinner rolls; pies and cakes also are on a “per order” basis.

Because Belen is so small, Garcia said forecasting sales can be as tricky. But he’s seen his customer base grow, little by little, mostly because of word-of-mouth recommendations.

“I’m getting used to the slower pace,” he said. “Of course, I miss the ocean, the beaches and the seafood.”

But he doesn’t miss getting stuck in freeway traffic.

Business could be better, he said. “But everyone’s supportive. They all seem happy,” Garcia said.

Retirees are some of his best regulars.

“Sometimes I feel more like a bartender than a baker,” he jokes of retired people who come in and want to talk.

“I can talk all day,” he admits. “I’m bilingual so I can talk to most anyone who walks through the door.”

Delicias Bakery Cafe, at 412 S. Main Street in Belen, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.