Mexican bakery in Raleigh basks in pride, new business after vice president’s visit
With tongs in hand, Vice President Kamala Harris scoured the selection of scrumptious baked goods that could only belong to a traditional Mexican bakery, or panadería.
Conchas, pastelitos, orejas, mantecadas, bolillos and cuernos all beckoned from behind glass cases.
Then, she approached the register with her two selections: a slice of Mexican cheesecake and a jalapeño cream cheese roll. She added an order of tortillas, too.
Since Harris made an unannounced visit to Panadería Artesanal Monday afternoon, owner Eliazar Castillo has been enjoying the newfound attention — and business — that has come to the bakery on Capital Boulevard.
“Nobody famous had ever been here before,” Castillo told The News & Observer on Thursday, speaking in Spanish.
Harris came to the bakery after taking part in a panel discussion in downtown Raleigh on small businesses and Hispanic-owned businesses.
“It was something really good, that (Harris) would take Hispanic businesses into account,” Castillo said. “It’s something that stays with you.”
Castillo, 45, and his wife, Jessica Barahona, own and operate the bakery at 4011 Capital Blvd.
He hails from generations of panaderos, or bakers, native to the town of Pahuatlán, located in the state of Puebla in Mexico. He has three brothers who also run family-owned bakeries in the Triangle.
“Since our father taught us how to run bakeries, we’ve followed his example,” Castillo said. “We migrated to this country and followed our father’s and mother’s footsteps.”
In 2014, Castillo and Barahona obtained a loan from Durham-based Latino Community Credit Union to start their business out of a truck.
Vicky Garcia, the credit union’s senior vice president, took part in the panel with Harris on Monday.
But the day before, she contacted Barahona about the prospect of a special visit from a VIP.
Castillo, 45, thought his wife was joking when she informed him the name of the special guest.
“When my wife told me about it, I told her I didn’t believe it,’” Castillo said.
But Monday afternoon, Harris, joined by Reps. Deb Ross and Wiley Nickel and a large gaggle of press and aides, crowded into their bakery. Harris left around 3 p.m. to head back to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, with pan dulce and tortillas in tow that Castillo assured her were “100% Mexican.”
Panadería Artesanal has had new customers drop by this week, including some who aren’t Latino, Castillo said.
“I’m hoping that people will think that if the vice president came here and tried my food, took some bread and tortillas home, then it must be something good, right?” he said.
As for Harris, she’s invited any time.
“I bet you that she’ll be back,” he said. “It’s very good bread.”