Zuly Del Valle was a banker, not a baker, before opening Del Valle’s Puerto Rican Bakery in Killeen in December.
The Puerto Rico native does not have a background in baking. She worked in various positions in banks for nearly 10 years. When she moved to Killeen as a military spouse in 1997, she noticed there was a sizable Puerto Rican community, but there was no bakery that served Puerto Rican food.
“There are a lot of bakeries back home, but there weren’t any here,” she said. “I always thought one could go over well.”
A few years ago, Del Valle started thinking about opening a bakery. She said the size of the Puerto Rican community in the area was the major reason she decided to launch the bakery.
“The last number I heard was that 47 percent of the Hispanic community here is Puerto Rican,” she said.
Del Valle said she knew a little about baking pastries, but she knew nothing about baking bread. So Del Valle went to Puerto Rico for a month and worked in a friend’s bakery.
“I worked in the bakery every day for a month,” she said. “The major thing I needed was experience in the types of bread we sell back home. The whole bread making was new for me.”
Every day, Del Valle and her seven employees bake 100 loaves of “sobao,” a soft, sweet bread, and “pan de agua.”
“(Pan de agua) translates to ‘water bread,’” Del Valle said. “It is similar to French bread, but it is softer.
Del Valle does not expect to sell 100 loaves of bread every day, although she has accomplished it on some days. She needs to bake that many loaves for the Puerto Rican-style sandwiches the bakery offers. Del Valle said it has not been a problem getting the ingredients she needs to make her sandwiches authentic.
“Anybody can make a sandwich with the ingredients we use, but it is the way we season it and the bread we use that makes it special,” Del Valle said.
The bakery also offers catering services.
“We do catering for events,” she said. “We did an event last Sunday at St. Paul’s (St. Paul Chong Hasang Catholic Church) Church in Harker Heights, and we have a wedding coming up.”
Del Valle said before opening her business, she believed if her bakery offered authentic Puerto Rican foods, it would attract a lot of customers. So far, she has not been disappointed.
“We get people from all over Texas,” she said. “They sometimes spend an entire afternoon here, eating and meeting with friends.”