PUBLISHED BY FLORIDA KEYS FREE PRESS, “BAKERY PROMISES AUTHENTIC CUBAN FOOD”
KEY LARGO — On Oct. 2, Pinecrest Bakery finally opened in Key Largo on mile marker 99 in a Cuban-food-themed chain that was started in 2012 by Efrain Valdes and Joel Rodriguez.
The opening was long-awaited for many locals. In 2014, a sign was posted outside the building that indicated the bakery would open that year, and yet it didn’t.
“Building permit and inspections were the reasons for our delayed opening,” explained Victoria, chief communications officer for Pinecrest Bakery and the daughter of Efrain Valdes. “Our last inspection was literally a couple of days before we opened.”
Despite what the name might suggest, the chain serves more than sweet stuff. There are also savory pastries and hot-pressed sandwiches that can be served, unexpectedly for a “bakery,” at a drive-through that’s open 24/7.
“This location includes our first drive-through ever,” said Victoria Valdes. “I am the designer, and it took me a month and a half to create. It was very fun and rewarding to see installed.”
The company focused on opening in Key Largo because they felt weekenders from Miami would take advantage of their selection of Cuban food.
“Many Miami friends and relatives frequent the Keys on the weekends, and there is nowhere to get any authentic Cuban food like ours in the area,” she said. “And we know the go-to food for fishing is sandwiches on the boat, so we wanted our customers to be able to stop by quickly, thus the invention of our first drive-through, and continue on their way to the ocean.”
Pinecrest Bakery was originally inspired by the thought that there wasn’t a place in the Pinecrest neighborhood of Miami where the family lived for a quick bite of Cuban food.
“Growing up in Miami’s Little Havana, we were able to get our desired cortadito [espresso with steamed milk] and pastelito [pastries] anytime, on any corner. The Pinecrest area was missing this basic need for our family,” said Victoria Valdes.
Efrain Valdes, who has a business background, reached out to long-time friend Joel Rodriguez with his idea. Rodriguez is the owner of Pastelmania bakery in Miami’s Little Havana and “knows the ins and outs of the Miami bakery scene,” Victoria Valdes said.
Efrain Valdes brings “meat-and-potatoes basic business sense” to the partnership, he says.
The pair opened the first store in the Pinecrest neighborhood of Miami on Dec. 23, 2012; a second one followed in Miami on Feb. 6, 2013. The total is now up to eight, with one opening in Miami Beach soon.
“We are continuing to expand in the Miami-Dade County community and already have interested bakery clients that have approached us with the desire to open their own Pinecrest Bakery in northern Florida and other states,” said Victoria Valdes.
“Making a national chain is something that we’d love to accomplish, but only as a franchise-level company where all our partners can share in the spread of our culture through food.”
Efrain Valdes’s favorite pastry served by Pinecrest Bakery is the guayaba (guava) pastelito. Other family favorites? Victoria Valdes ticks off a list: “our croquetas [croquettes], as well as our empanadas [stuffed turnovers] and tequeños [fried braded cheese sticks].”
And let’s not forget the party.
“We will definitely have a grand-opening party before the end of the year,” she said. “We will even have our first ever croqueta-eating contest and a grand-prize winner.”
The décor of the bakery has simple deep brown walls accented by two large shimmering chandeliers.
“They were inspired by Efrain Valdes,” said Victoria Valdes. “They are modern, yet classic. They are in the present, but also in the past. The older traditional style carries more weight and value, more respect. We want our customers to feel as through they are in our family kitchen, being served generous portions of hearty food, like in our home.”
(By Charlotte Twine)