eautifully strung balloons lined the entrance at 300 Beverly Road, as a crowd gathered along the sidewalk in anticipation.
This moment was years in the making for Jose Flores and Jazmin Hernandez, who moved to Castle Shannon Boulevard in 2018 from their home in Toluca, Mexico, with the hopes of someday opening a bakery in the area.
“We’re so excited. This is my dream come true,” Flores said. “It’s wonderful.”
Panadería Jazmin opened its doors in Mt. Lebanon on September 15, which, fittingly, is Mexico’s Independence Day. After all, it was in Mexico that the dreams for this bakery began.
In the state of Mexico, near Mexico City, Hernandez’s family owns a bakery and she grew up learning the craft. Flores was introduced to baking after returning home from a date with Hernandez. Her dad was up baking in the middle of the night and handed Flores an apron. From that moment on, he too was hooked.
“When I’m baking bread and I see the bread rising, I feel happy. I want to share it with everyone,” Flores said.
The couple visited friends in Pittsburgh several years ago and knew they had to stay. The area was lacking a traditional Mexican bakery and they wanted to be the ones to introduce the region to their delicacies.
After moving to the area, Flores began working at both Totopo and Simone’s in Mt. Lebanon. The family, complete with daughters Keyla and Angeles, wanted to be close by. So, they put down roots here.
Flores often would bring in baked goods to Totopo.
“People kept asking: ‘When are you going to make more? We want more.’ People kept asking questions,” said Brenda Garcia, who worked at Totopo with Flores and who served as a translator for Hernandez for this story. “Everybody loved it.”
With a growing demand for their Mexican baked goods, the couple rented out the kitchen at Simone’s overnight.
“They didn’t sleep,” Garcia said.
Instead, they baked. Initially, they grew their business via word of mouth. They would take orders and deliver the baked goods to homes.
Hernandez learned of the Uptown Market and reached out to market manager Carla Clipper about hosting a booth there on Saturdays this summer.
“They were a hit immediately,” Clipper said.
Hernandez, who is working hard to learn English, said people were always kind and patient as she interacted with them.
The couple sold out quickly each week, as the interest kept growing. They began selling their baked goods at farmers’ markets across the area, but there was something special about Mt. Lebanon.
“The people in Mt. Lebanon told them, ‘You need to open something here,’” Garcia said, translating for Hernandez. “They felt so welcomed by the community. Everybody was so nice and they wanted to know more about the culture.”
They began to look for space in the area to open their bakery. In June, they learned of the tragic passing of Kara Leo, owner of Kara Kakes on Beverly Road, who was killed by a falling tree branch while hiking. But they didn’t want to reach out to anyone about that space. They wanted to give her family and friends time to grieve.
Jeff Iovino, of io Deli and Café io, sublet the space to Leo for Kara Kakes. He was approached by numerous people asking about the space. But he wanted to be careful about whom he selected. The space had to go to a business that would make Kara happy, he said.
Iovino received four calls from people recommending Panadería Jazmin for the spot. So, he met with them.
They were a specialty business, just like Kara Kakes; Leo’s husband also is of Latin descent, so she had a fondness for that region, Iovino said.
“I’m blown away,” Iovino said of the couple. “You meet them and, to know them is to love them.”
The couple worked with Brent Rondon, senior management consultant for the Small Business Development Center’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence to get off the ground.
“There’s a drive there. They’re people who always see the glass half full. There’s no challenge they won’t overcome,” Rondon said.
For the opening day, they baked from 11 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. the next day to ensure all of their preservative-free breads were fresh.
Flores and Hernandez plan to expand their menu for the new storefront. They’re also taking custom orders.
“They are putting their whole heart into this business. They’re really excited to be able to share their culture and traditions with the community,” Garcia said, translating for Hernandez.