Isidro Perez, the owner of Marissa’s Bakery on Nicollet Avenue, chose Minneapolis for his business in the early 90s because of the ample opportunity he saw in the city.
Coming from the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, a largely Mexican area known for its authentic bakeries and restaurants, Isidro saw little competition in the Mexican bakery business in Minneapolis.
A cousin had invited Isidro to visit Minneapolis. He spent a year living here and traveling home on the weekends with bread for his family. He brought his firstborn, Marissa, along on his travels and she became the bakery’s namesake.
Shortly after, Isidro moved the rest of his family to Minneapolis and opened the bakery on Eat Street in Whittier.
Isidro’s second daughter Araceli gave a brief rundown of the bakery’s history and her dad’s story before her father arrived to the interview. Araceli works part-time in the bakery as an office manager in addition to being a realtor. She explained that Isidro’s schedule is rather unconventional– it was past three o’clock and he had not yet eaten his first meal of the day.
She told me that her parents met working at the Chicago bakery 0wned by an uncle on her mom’s side. Both Isidro’s father and grandfather were bakers in Mexico, making him a third generation baker.
When he arrived at the interview, Isidro talked over Araceli while she updated him on what she’d already told me about the bakery’s origins.
“He said grandpa didn’t teach him, poverty taught him,” Araceli relayed with a grin.
When asked his title at the bakery, Isidro called himself presidente panadero.
“President baker, I like that,” Araceli said, laughing.
Since opening Marissa’s in what was a tiny, rented space in a building beside a bodega and laundromat, Isidro used the bakery’s profits to buy the building and spread into each business’ space as they moved.
“I’d never seen a bakery so tiny,” Isidro said of the original store with a laugh.
He ran Marissa’s Supermarket in the space that is now Colonial Market and Restaurant, and Araceli worked as a cashier at Marissa’s as a high schooler. Though her dad didn’t want Araceli or her four siblings spending much time at his work when they were little, she said that they each spend some time cashiering around high school age.
“He didn’t want his kids, for the most part, to be raised here,” she said. “We would come here on the weekends, but I think when you’re little you want to help even though you’re not much of a help.”
Araceli enjoyed her job at the market, and when she was around 18 she started helping her dad with inventory and other tasks. While working alongside family can be difficult, she said that the family business kept her connected with their Mexican culture.
“It kept us integrated in the community,” she said. “I think you really know or learn about a culture through their food, and so at home we always had Mexican food, Mexican bread, and learned how to make those recipes too.”
Araceli’s favorite pastries include a gingerbread pig called marranito and a bow-shaped croissant called a moño. Isidro prefers making and eating the bread.
“He also still makes the bread himself. There are a couple breads that his bakers do not know the recipe for,” Araceli said.
Isidro is proud of the product he bakes. He doesn’t reuse oil, like other bakeries and restaurants, because he prefers fresh oil for an untainted flavor.
“He takes care of his product,” Araceli said of her father.
As for the future of the bakery, Isidro hopes it stays in the family. Araceli’s oldest sister works for Minneapolis Public Schools, two siblings are nurses and the youngest sibling is in grad school. Isidro interjected that none of his children’s careers creates as much wealth as the bakery, to which Araceli gave a resigned smile.
“He’s built generational wealth for us,” Araceli said. “I think his dream is for one of us to run the bakery, and maybe it will happen.”
Marissa’s Bakery is located at 2750 Nicollet Avenue and is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.