18 January, 2022, 01:13

Former Le Cave’s space finds new life as Mendez Bakery

Fernando Mendez opened Mendez Bakery in the previously troubled space after extensive renovations and repairs.

Mendez Bakery recently opened in the former Le Cave’s space on South Sixth Avenue.

The bakery’s namesake, Fernando Mendez, came to the United States in 1989 after growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Prior to opening the bakery, Mendez was an independent wholesale baked goods delivery driver. But in August 2018, he inquired about Le Cave’s previous Sixth Avenue property with the goal of opening a new bakery. He wanted that specific location for two reasons: recognition (it had been a bakery for years), and traffic.

Pan dulce at Mendez Bakery

Pan dulce at Mendez Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

As was to be expected, given the history of problems with the Pima County Health Department and Le Caves, the space was in need of quite a bit of work. But he was able to obtain the property. After investing more than $50k of his own money, he slowly turned the old building around with help from his sons–Daniel and Christopher–and other friends and family

While frustrating at times, PCHD urged him to upgrade the property beyond the minimum requirements. He’d work his wholesale business during the day while spending the evenings feverishly restoring and repairing the old bakery. Sometimes, he’d fall asleep while working on the building.

Telera bread at Mendez Bakery

Telera bread at Mendez Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Finally, in early June, Mendez was ready to open. After one last round of inspections, PCHD called and told him his permits were ready. This was June 7, the day before his birthday.

Conchas o Pan de Huevos or conchas for short are a traditional Mexican sweet bread made with eggs. They’re typically eaten with coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Like a scone, they feature a delicate pattern that decorates the top of the roll. Mendez Bakery’s conchas are fluffy and just sweet enough.

Simmering goats milk while also caramelizing it, a cook makes cajeta. This concoction, essentially a goat’s milk dulce de leche, is cooked down as a filling for breads and empanadas. Mendez’s Cajeta Empanada feature a crispy pie crust with a soft, sweet cajeta filling. The bakery offers a variety of empanadas was proud of variety of pastries, which are made twice daily due to their popularity.

Veering away from traditional Mexican pastries, Mendez also offers items, like homemade croissants, doughnuts, cheese pastries, cheese Danishes, and cinnamon rolls. In fact, the doughnut glaze is a special recipe from his family in Oaxaca. Additionally, you’ll find Mexican candy. And before the new year, cakes will be available, too.

Pan dulce at Mendez Bakery

Pan dulce at Mendez Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

In the back of the back of the bakery, tortillas are made over a hundred year-old oven. The bakery’s tortillas are good for 3-4 days, and up to a week if refrigerated. Made without preservatives, the tortillas are sold in a variety of sizes.

Week after week, foot traffic into the shop grows.

Family is important to Mendez. His sons helped with the buildout while his brother, Daniel, helps with deliveries. And he has lofty ambitions of bringing his sister to the U.S. to open a small Mexican restaurant in part of the space. Her mole, one of his favorite foods, is the best, says Mendez.

Mendez Bakery is located at 1219 S. Sixth Ave