Beyond English: A little bit of Mexico
Salt Lake panaderia offers Latinos some traditional food, chance to speak Spanish
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Second in a seven-part series

Spanish at Panaderia Flores

Store 1: 904 S. 900 West, Salt Lake City

Store 2: 1625 W. 700 North, Salt Lake City

Language: Spanish

Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

What to expect: A Mexican bakery

Inside: A look at some of Panaderia Flores' specialties.

Tuesday: Bosna, a Bosnian cafe

Growing up in Mexico, Santiago Flores spent most days after school making pan dulce with his father at the family's bakery, Panaderia Imperial.

More than three decades later, he's running two Mexican bakeries in Salt Lake City, and he's working on opening a third Panaderia Flores.

Flores, who moved to California as a farmworker 20 years ago, says he knows how hard it is for people to move to the United States, especially when they don't speak English. So he hopes his bakeries on the city's west side are places where Latinos feel at home, and if they're looking for work, he wants to help.

"I want to work more to have more," Flores said in Spanish. "I don't want another bakery to have more money - I want to help more people with jobs."

Flores and his employees are among the more than 75,000 people - or about 1-in-10 residents - in Salt Lake County who speak Spanish at home, according to 2000 census data compiled by the Modern Language Association.

Customers said they come to Panaderia Flores store No. 1, on the corner of 900 South and 900 West, because it reminds them of their homeland. They also come for the good customer service and their favorite Mexican treats, from flan, a custard dish, to pastel de tres leches, a cake made with three kinds of milk. They enjoy hanging out in the store's parking lot, catching up with friends they run into, and buying Spanish-music CDs from a man selling them out of his trunk. Here, they are proud of their culture and feel comfortable, not embarrassed, about speaking Spanish.

"They treat you right like friends," said Sharon Ravelo, a 22-year-old Salt Lake City resident. "This place is like Mexico. I feel good here."

Latinos make up more than 12 percent of the county's population, according to the 2000 U.S. census.

Ravelo, who moved here alone from Mexico City two months ago, found out about about the bakery through friends. She said it's where she comes to get away from the English-speaking world, which makes her feel inadequate. She recently stopped by a store in the mall to get her iPod fixed and no one could help her because no one spoke Spanish.

Ravelo, who's working full time cleaning laboratory equipment and part time at the bakery, said she's determined to learn English, so she's enrolling in classes.

"If you don't speak English, you don't feel right. You can't ask for anything," she said in Spanish. "It's important to me that they understand me."

Roughly a third of residents speak Spanish at home in Salt Lake City's west side ZIP codes 84104 and 84116, home to both bakeries.

About 90 percent of the bakeries' customers are Latinos, and most speak Spanish, says Flores.

Angelina Rivera, 54, moved from Mexico to Utah four years ago to be with her three grown children. She visits the bakery about every other day for a $6 bag of orejas, a round, flaky pastry, and cuernos, sweet croissants.

Rivera, who doesn't speak English, said she comes to the bakery because it's a neighborhood spot where she knows she can ask for something and chat with the employees in Spanish. At other stores, she often has to get her 12-year-old son to translate for her.

"Here, I don't feel scared. I feel safe," she said carrying her white paper bag of pan dulce.

At bakery No. 1, where the aroma of freshly baked cookies and bread fills the air, regular customers are greeted by their nicknames. Customers walk into the tiny blue and yellow store, grab a tray and tongs, and pick their own sweet bread, which are displayed in a glass case. They can also order a birthday cake or buy Jarritos, fruit-flavored sodas, or horchata, sweet rice milk.

Outside, Spanish music plays in the parking lot, where only a handful of cars can fit comfortably at one time.

Javier Aguilar, known as "Gordo," sells $10 DVDs, $8 CDs and $1.50 Mexican-style elote - corn on the cob with mayonnaise, butter and powdered red chile - from a plastic table in the bakery's parking lot. Sometimes, even after the bakery closes at 10 p.m., customers continue to stop by for corn and snow cones.

Aguilar, a full-time cook who moved from Mexico to Utah 10 years ago, said his stand brings in the extra cash he needs to support his wife and five kids. Plus, he enjoys being surrounded by Latinos.

"The whole world is my friend here," he said with a big smile, shaking a customer's hand. "I can talk to everyone in Spanish."

Julian Magallanes, a 27-year-old single dad of two young sons, moved from Mexico to Utah 10 years ago. He said coming to the bakery with his sons reminds him of going with his mother to his neighborhood panaderia in Mexico.

Even though his sons are half-Anglo, Magallanes says he wants to make sure they speak Spanish and carry on his Mexican traditions. So the family drives about 30 minutes about once a week for pan dulce from their Cottonwood Heights house on the county's far east side, where about 90 percent of people speak English at home.

"I want to keep them close to their culture," says Magallanes, a full-time welder. "I want them to know what their dad likes to eat and where I came from."

For Flores, it was a family tradition that helped him reach his American dream - owning a home and a business.

Flores, who dropped out of middle school to help with the family bakery, says when he moved to California in 1985, he picked grapes for $4.50 an hour for about a year and later started baking at panaderias.

"I always focused on working," he says. "I never thought about having my own business."

Then, when Flores and his family moved to Salt Lake City in 1998, he started working at a Mexican bakery and bought it five years later, making it store No. 1. He also bought a five-bedroom house on the city's northwest side.

Now, two years later, Flores has opened the second bakery, and he and his wife manage about 20 employees. Flores, who works eights hours a day, seven days a week, says he'll always bake, regardless of how many stores he opens, and he thanks his employees for making his pan dulce a success.

"I can't build my business myself," Flores said wearing a white apron and black boots dusted with flour. "I need people, my workers, to help me grow my business."

jsanchez@sltrib.com

Panaderia Flores

Some menu items:

* Sponja, concha or pan de huevo: a round piece of bread topped with a sweet crust

* Marranito: thick ginger cookie in the shape of a pig

* Pastel de tres leches: moist cake topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream

* Pastel de fresa colada: moist strawberry cake topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream

Tuesday

Bosna, customers say, is a place where they can smoke, drink coffee and eat cevapis while joking around in Bosnian with friends. There are also times when they reminisce about the good times before the war, before they were driven out of their homeland and moved to Utah.

Wednesday

Fish balls, dry squid and duck eggs are grocery items found at Great China Market. Customers say they come here because they can speak to the owner and read signs in Chinese and buy foods that remind them of home - halfway around the world.

Thursday

St. Patrick's Catholic Church is the only Salt Lake County parish that has services in Tongan. Here, people say they prefer to pray and sing to "Otua" in Tongan because they can feel it deep in their soul.

Friday

Even though they moved here from Europe decades ago, some Utahns still prefer to speak their native language, German. Vosen's Bread Paradise is one of a handful of places in the state where they can speak in German and find bauernbrot and bienenstich.

Saturday

Not all people who speak Spanish are Mexican or eat tacos, say customers at El Arepazo. At this South American eatery, people say they feel at home here speaking with strangers in Spanish and eating arepas and teque os, favorite foods from their homeland.