INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As a birthday present, Jose Velazquez gave his son a bakery business, something he himself had always dreamed of having. Nineteen-year-old Alan Velazquez is now learning how to run a business and how to be a baker, all the while staying on top of his studies at Sierra Nevada College. La Panadería del Lago, which opened this past July, is located in the 7-Eleven shopping center on Village Boulevard.
Through the large front windows, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, scones, cookies and birthday cakes are displayed. And because baking continues throughout the day, the smell of fresh bread and baked goods is constant. The bakery is open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekdays and until 9 p.m. on weekends.
“I like getting to know everybody,” Alan said. “I get to see so many different faces, and learn about people.”
Jose Velazquez owns A+ Services, a business out of Kings Beach that cleans homes and rental properties along the lake. He works seven days per week at A+ and joins his children each evening at the bakery.
“It’s really hard because we can’t really split in two,” Jose said of the long days cleaning followed by evenings at the bakery. “There is not enough time to do it all.”
Watching his father’s work ethic over the years, Alan feels confident in running the family business.
“Unless it’s perfect, it’s not good enough,” Alan said. “I think if he can do it, I can do it.”
The balance of school work as a psychology student and the time to learn and perfect the trade of baking can be challenging, Alan said.
“We’re still getting settled. I can only do it thanks to my sisters,” he said.
Stephany, a senior at North Tahoe High School, comes after school to work the front, and 11-year-old Jaquelyne loves to help out in the kitchen.
“It’s fun,” Jaquelyne said. “I like messing around with flour and dough. And if I mess up, I can just smash it up again.”
Jose’s children love learning the trade from their father, although he doesn’t share their love of sweets. Alan says his father is “the weird one in the family” because he doesn’t feel the same about cookies and pastries.
“I do not like sweets,” Jose said with a laugh. “But all three of my children do.”
Many of the baked goods are recipes passed down from Alan’s grandmother Lupita, who owned a bakery in Mexico City. Alan recalls going to Mexico as a young boy and spending a lot of time in La Panadería de Lupita.
“I was always watching her work and sometimes helping her work,” Alan said.
Although Jose’s mother closed her bakery in Mexico City, she was able to visit her children and grandchildren just before they opened theirs. She loved it, Jose said, and was happy to see her children opening the business.
Tourists and people unfamiliar with traditional Mexican pastries usually ask a lot of questions about the sweet items called conchas (seashells), corbatas (neckties), barquillos (little boats) and orejitas (little ears). The bakers fill some pastries with Bavarian cream, others with whipped, and small empanadas with strawberry or blueberry filling; they also have small cakes filled with pineapple and topped with powdered sugar.
One thing Panadería del Lago doesn’t do is gluten-free or sugar-free products. Despite the growing trend among other bakeries, Jose says these items are not on the menu.
“In a Mexican bakery you’re going to see the sweet stuff,” he said.
The bakery does serve tea and coffee, breakfast burritos, paprika sausages and yogurt parfaits for customers looking for a not-so-sweet breakfast.
Panadería del Lago also bakes its own bread — sourdough and French rolls are a specialty, as well as bagels — every Tuesday.
On July 19, for his son’s 19th birthday, the Velazquez family opened Panadería del Lago, in part, Stephany says, to teach his children about responsibility.
“This business is for my kids,” Jose said, and although it has been tough, “little by little and step by step,” they are developing the business together, as a family.
“In a Mexican bakery you’re going to see the sweet stuff.”