Even in New York City just ten years ago it was hard to find real Cuban food so are cities like St. Louis or Pittsburgh ready? I really, really hope so.
vicky bakery franchise with amy cao
Vicky Bakery’s new location in Hollywood, Florida. Photo: Startup Cuba

Walking into Vicky Bakery’s new location in Hollywood, Florida, it becomes apparent – quickly – that they’re up to something ambitious. The beautiful new store, located in a strip mall on State Road 7, is slick, tight and run with the precision of a jet ready for takeoff. You’ll notice you’re at Vicky as soon as you see the red logo and the case of pastelitos; but there’s clearly more to the story here.

The 50 year old South Florida classic, with 17 stores in the region, now has a commissary and sleek franchise plan designed to expand the brand way beyond its 1972 Hialeah origins. There are ten new stores planned for the next two years with a goal of 100 franchised locations in five years. The bakery, which now offers more than just Cuban pastries (i.e., Nicaraguan, Colombian, and more) wants to be a staple across the United States. Startup Cuba had a chance to sit down with Amy Cao, one the owners and the Chief Marketing Officer of Vicky Bakery, for a video interview (below) to talk about their vision and to eat some (many) pastelitos.

The bakery, which now offers more than just Cuban pastries (i.e., Nicaraguan, Colombian, and more) wants to be a staple across the United States.

Now, in fairness, I didn’t just choose this story because of the pastries. I mean, it’s better than some of the other stories we’ve covered without guava y queso. Like for instance, this story about a Cuban NFT that I bought. It was awesome and I was pumped to be able to support my entrepreneur friends, Clandestina. But, Idania’s NFT does not taste as good as the Cuban bread and croquetas lined up and neatly stacked at Vicky Bakery.

For me, the idea that many of the treats that I grew up with in South Florida – which were hard to find in New York City and Boston when I left – are on the cusp of going mainstream, is super exciting. It will mean I don’t have to travel with pastelitos in my carry-on bag so that I can have three-months supply in the freezer at home.

vicky bakery franchise

“Pastelito de Guayaba will be right up there,” Cao tells us. “It’s something that we believe can go nationwide.”

The bakery has also started to make vegan Cuban bread; substituting the lard with vegetable oil, “It’s that old Cuban tradition to do it with the lard. We continue it. Obviously it’s very popular. But, we also have this alternative now for those that don’t want to do that…”

I tried the vegan Cuban bread. It tastes virtually identical to its animal infused cousin; almost a bit better. In fact, despite eating the stuff since I was in the single digits, and thinking I could tell the difference… I couldn’t. Cao quickly pointed out that I picked the wrong bread in the taste test (in the video above).

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It’ll be exciting to see where new Vicky Bakery locations open. There are over 60 million, and growing, people of Latino origin living in the United States. Plus, I bet another 200 million who don’t have a Latino bone in them but love the food. So, can Vicky Bakery appeal to the masses. I hope so and I think that in the top markets – New York City, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and so on – there’s opportunity.

producer zuzy martin aly at a vicky bakery franchise
Startup Cuba producer Zuzy, awaits the pastelito tastings. Photo: Startup Cuba

Some cities won’t be ready. For instance, even in New York City just ten years ago it was hard to find real Cuban food (thank you, Louie Estrada) so are cities like St. Louis or Oklahoma ready? To go beyond those spots, the market will have to catch up. Come on market. Come on. After Union City, NJ and New York City, I really, really want a Vicky Bakery in Boston.

Fresh pastelitos are so much better than the frozen ones I’m forced to eat.

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Ken Deckinger is the co-founder and CEO of Startup Cuba and the executive producer and host of its namesake docuseries. A native of South Florida, Ken has been an entrepreneur for his entire professional career. Previously he was co-founder and CEO of HurryDate, pioneering the global concept of speed dating to 45 cities throughout the US, UK and Canada. HurryDate eventually evolved into online dating and was acquired by Spark Networks, the parent company of ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com. Ken is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Florida, where he was honored with the University’s Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Under 40 award and sits on the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He actively advises entrepreneurs and is a two-time protagonist of a Harvard Business School case study. Ken’s filmmaking and journalistic journey is inspired by a love of travel and authentic connections with other cultures. He believes that the more we know about each other, through stories, the closer we can become — thus the mission of Startup Cuba: to amplify the voices of the people sharing stories in the Latinx space. After living in New York City for 15 years, he encouraged his wife to move their family to Miami to get back to his South Florida roots. Needless to say, it was a short discussion and he and his family now call Boston, where his wife grew up, their home.

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