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Spotlight Iowa City: It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s Deluxe

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jamie Powers knows the atmosphere of her hometown bakery is just as important as the gourmet treats it serves.

Deluxe Cakes & Pastries, 812 S. Summit St., is encased by light pink walls, and a vintage diner-like counter sits at the store’s center with three red-cushioned silver stools. Resting on top of the counter is a glass case containing pastries ranging from a butter-dunked cinnamon pecan muffin to citrus poppyseed bread.

It is a setup the 34-year-old spent years perfecting.

“People come in not just to eat but to zone out and get away from the troubles of the day,” said Powers, wearing a flour-smeared apron and putting some finishing touches on red velvet petit-fours.

Powers started the bakery after working in Wolfgang Puck’s, a professional kitchen, and the five-star Brown Palace Hotel. The business began in her basement in Iowa City, where she worked alongside her pet Great Dane, and it eventually expanded to the current location in 2002.

She’s since created an eclectic menu of baked goods — all made from scratch out of award-winning ingredients. Powers insists on using whole milk, heavy cream, and butter in her creations, instead of low-fat substitutes, which she said adds to the taste.

Deluxe employs two full-time and three part-time workers. Iowa City resident Mary Simmons has been working for Powers the longest, around four years.

“Jamie and I are of very different natures, so it’s been great to explore how to work together, and she’s funny,” 57-year-old Simmons said with a bright smile. “When we’re busy, the hammer comes down, but that’s when the humorous one-liners come out, too.”

Powers’ ability to make customers and coworkers feel comfortable keeps residents, such as Mark Russo, coming back for more.

“It’s a great neighborhood gathering place,” he said. “The atmosphere and the staff are great. We like them a lot, everybody works hard, and they have a great product.

Russo said he visits the bakery about three to four times a week to take a coffee break from his kitchen- and bath-design business. It is this everyday crowd of pastry and coffee buying regulars that keep the business alive.

Many people come to Deluxe to ask Powers for custom orders. Past creations include a motorcycle wedding cake with bright orange flames and a Wrigley Field birthday cake containing an elaborate green scoreboard at its top.

Powers also gets ideas for new recipes and designs by researching the work of professional chefs in places such as New York City, San Francisco, and Boston. She said this is her favorite part of the job because it allows her to try something new and be creative.

“That’s the fun part of the job,” Powers said, noting her newest addition, an apple pomegranate tart. “I get to sit at Prairie Lights and think up desserts.”

In the coming months, Powers plans on partnering with other local businesses — such as Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop — to sell pastries, but doesn’t plan to expand outside of Iowa City.

“We’d lose this vibe if we expanded too much,” Powers said. “We’re more interested in building a community.”



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