Luis Morales, a Baldwin Park-based baker, and his daughters have been holding pop-up bakeries in the neighborhood every Friday since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Luis Morales is up bright and early.
The Baldwin Park resident and baker checks on the goodies he created the night before — croissants, macaroons and puff pastries among them — and pops more into the oven.
It’s 6 a.m. as he and his daughters, 11-year-old Estefania and 13-year-old Bianca, get to work finishing, packaging and preparing the sweet treats for their next stop — the pop-up bakery.
Morales and his daughters head to a predesignated spot in the neighborhood — lately, in front of Baldwin Park Realty — and set up their makeshift shop. The girls unload the pastries and arrange them carefully on the umbrella-covered table as Morales brings over their signs. By 8 a.m., the pop-up bakery is open for business.
Every Friday since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Morales and his daughters have been out from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. somewhere in the Village Center to sell the sweet treats and breads he makes. The location of the pop-up bakery changes from time to time, but the demand never wavers.
Born largely out of a need to provide for his family once the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily put himself and his wife out of their jobs, the pop-up bakery idea has been a combined effort between Morales, his daughters and local business owners.
“Here, once the COVID started, we felt the pressure,” he says. “This is what I know how to do. We talked to Baldwin Park Realty. They kind of inspired me to (do this) — they said, ‘Hey, we have a table, let’s do some croissants, let’s do something.’ They inspired me to do that.”
Morales has been baking for 13 years and learned his craft from some of the best bakers in the business. Born in Canada and largely raised in Venezuela, Morales immigrated to the United States years ago. He started off as a dishwasher in a bakery, cleaning his dishes as fast as he could before clocking out to learn under the tutelage of a French baker.
“I always cooked, I always worked in kitchens, but a bakery never worked in my life,” Morales says. “I started as a dishwasher. I was struggling in the country at the moment — I came from Canada, I was immigrating. I started my baking career with a little bakery in Gainesville. That’s how I learned, with a French baker. I just practiced with him for about four to five years, and then after that he left, he went to Europe. They closed the bakery, they sold it. And then we moved here.”
Here, Morales attended Le Cordon Bleu, a hospitality and culinary school that teaches French cuisine. He also worked for a Mediterranean bakery for four years, and today, he works at New York International Bread Company.
He started Goodies by Luis 11 years ago. His business has always been open online for preorders, and he even brought his products to some flea markets in Gainesville. It’s been a successful side hustle for Morales, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic began that he realized it was much more than that.
When COVID-19 hit, Morales had to think quickly to provide for his family. The idea of setting up shop with his products outside a local business scared him at first.
“It’s scary just staying here and (waiting) to see their reaction,” he says. “And their reaction has been phenomenal. As soon as I open, they’re coming here. … The general response has been great. Every Friday, I keep having the same customers and more. They keep asking me if I can do it more often.”
This is the most wonderful experience. It’s really an inspiration for me to have them working with me, learning what hustle is.” — Luis Morales
His bestsellers are the chocolate croissants, guava cheese croissants and macaroons. However, he specializes in all varieties of laminated doughs and pastries.
He usually begins making an order 24 hours in advance. The dough is started even earlier than that because of the fermentation process. But his pastries always are freshly baked — one of the reasons why they sell so quickly every Friday.
Estefania and Bianca love being involved in the process and helping their dad in any way they can. Estefania loves the hands-on baking process, while Bianca is crafty and specializes in organization. For Bianca, it’s her favorite part of the week.
“I find this a good experience, because one day I would like to be business owner,” Bianca says. “I usually stay up late at night and then go to bed and wake up early in the morning, and I’ll help him wrap, set everything up and put stickers on the bags. It’s pretty fun. … It’s all baked with love and nothing else.”
“When people love his food, it makes me happy that he’s doing what makes him happy,” Estefania says. “It’s just amazing how he’s getting so many interactions and good reactions.”
Morales most enjoys that the pop-up bakeries give him more time to spend with his daughters. It also allows him to teach them about business and baking — all while having fun.
“This is the most wonderful experience,” he says. “It’s really an inspiration for me to have them working with me, learning what hustle is. It’s not easy. It’s an encouragement for me, and I guess it’s an encouragement for them. I love it.”
“He’s my biggest role model,” Bianca says of her dad. “The whole point of this is to learn what a job is and learn how to work together as a team. If you don’t work in a team, you’re not getting anywhere.”