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Baking for the Locals

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | OCTOBER 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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Bigger isn’t always better.

Jamie Powers, the owner of small business DeLuxe Cakes and Pastries, firmly believes this.

DeLuxe will celebrate its 10th-year anniversary Saturday with free macaroons from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, 10 percent of sales for the day will be donated to the Mayor’s Youth Empowerment Position.

“I had a feeling we would make it to 10 years,” Powers said. “I had no idea we would be filled with such rich and complex tales coming from both the kitchen and the customers.”

Powers had dreamed of opening a bakery for years. The perfect location, a former grocery store in the middle of an urban neighborhood, provided the inspiration she needed to make the bakery a reality.

“You see, at the time, everything was being built outside the city and the idea of neighborhood retail gathering places was diminishing,” she said. “I saw it as an opportunity to bring a community together through food. I wanted to see the world from behind a counter, see a community, see a neighborhood, and provide for it the skill I knew.”

After 10 years, Powers’ employees and customers alike seem to appreciate her skill.

“Owning a small business is invigorating and exhausting at the same time,” Powers said. “I could not do it without an amazing staff. It takes a team to run this mother ship.”

Abigail Schroder, an employee of the bakery for the last two and a half years, said the most interesting aspects of her job are her coworkers and that she gets to be hands-on in the back making cakes and pastries.

“What is unique about working at Deluxe is the atmosphere. We are one big family,” Schroder said. “We know all of our customers, and all of our customers know us; we treat everybody like family. We make everything over-the-top for our customers, from doughnuts and croissants to wedding cakes.”

Personal service, more than just a vague smile and a thanks to a customer, places DeLuxe a step above the competition.

“The most important thing I have learned owning a small business is the importance of really knowing your customers, knowing their names, remembering bits about their lives, making them feel at home, creating their favorite treats,” Powers said. “You rarely get that service anymore, that personal service.”

Ellie Palmer, who began as an intern in the bakery in 2010, credits the unique experience of working with customers as part of her desire to stay on at DeLuxe.

“There is no other bakery in Iowa City that is in a residential neighborhood and has the relationships with the customers that we do,” she said. “We have a wooden stool that we will set in a corner of the kitchen, and individuals will sit there and be badgered by the kitchen workers; this is called the situation room. We have learned so much from the situation room, from chicken farming to the U.S. military to self-defense moves: wrist manipulation.”

Powers credits her staff, both former and current, for much of her success. The staff, she said, continually drives the bakery to try to be the best it can each day.

Mary Simmons, who has worked at DeLuxe for eight years, said her coworkers help make the bakery the success it has become.

“For me, our customer service is one of the ingredients that make DeLuxe a great attraction, because it’s almost like an open house,” Simmons said. “The owner is here and is hosting whoever comes to call. The whole context is kind of like an open door to an all-day party, every day.”

Powers is devoted to giving the bakery every opportunity for success, which is why she uses only local ingredients.

“We hand-make everything from croissants up to wedding cakes every day,” she said. “We make everything in-house using only butter, whole milk, and heavy cream. All of our dairy comes from within a 90-mile radius.”

The public will have a chance to sample these locally made and locally produced treats Saturday with the macaroon give-away, DeLuxe’s specialty.

“Our unique [item] is probably our macaroons, because a lot of bakeries don’t sell French macaroons, and they definitely don’t sell them in the flavors/varieties that we sell them,” Schroder said.


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