Comerica Corner: Mexicantown Bakery
By: Will Hollo
“Do what you enjoy!” No words better describe the life of Omar Hernandez, owner and operator of Mexicantown Bakery, located in Southwest Detroit, Michigan. Hernandez’s story is one of entrepreneurship and creation in his own life, influence and inspiration in the lives of others.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Hernandez moved to Detroit with his family in 1966. As a teenager, he learned the tricks of the trade working at various bakeries, including West Vernor Bakery, which was owned by his father. Hernandez mastered European breads, then French breads and Cuban puff pastries. Over time, he learned how to bake breads of all kinds. Everything he learned in these early years would go on to inspire the breads he would sell at Mexicantown Bakery in the future, such as their famous Tres Leches Cake.
Mexicantown Bakery’s foundation was laid in 1995 with the purchase and renovation of a historic building next door to Armando’s, a Mexican restaurant owned by Hernandez’s parents that still exists today. With a loan from Comerica bank, Hernandez opened Mexicantown Bakery in the renovated space. It started out as a small retail bakery that sold some groceries as well. After a few years, Hernandez added seating and Mexicantown Bakery took on the spirit and character of a true restaurant with authentic cultural influences, delicious food and a friendly staff.
With the retail bakery as a start, Hernandez capitalized on his line of credit with Comerica to purchase a warehouse for his wholesale business. With this venture, Hernandez sold Hispanic breads to supermarkets across the Midwest. The wholesale business offered all sorts of breads and pastries to distributors across the region, from bolillos to teleras and conchas. After about 15 years, Hernandez sold the wholesale side of his business, which continues to operate today.
Hernandez’s relationship with Comerica was fundamentally important to the growth of his business over the years; with loans from the bank, he was able to seize opportunities like the availability of the historic building that became the first Mexicantown Bakery location. This initial loan also jumpstarted significant community building in Southwest Detroit. With the restoration of the old historic building and creation of the first Mexicantown Bakery, others began to invest in an area that had become dilapidated over the years. Old buildings were restored and brought up to code, and the area became vibrant and attractive once again.
Today, Mexicantown Bakery maintains only one location, the one that started it all at 4300 West Vernor Highway. At its peak, Hernandez owned two retail locations and the wholesale service. In addition to the bakeries, Hernandez owned an entertainment club for 30 years, which was a performance center for Hispanic events. All of Hernandez’s business ventures have inspired community building in the part of Detroit that he grew up in and still calls home today.
Stop by Mexicantown Bakery and Armando’s, next door! The bakery is steeped in history and the pastries are delectable. And don’t forget...try the Tres Leches!