La Estrella Bakery’s Isabel and Erika Franco will be working hard this holiday season, making traditional pan dulce for the third decade in a row.
Marta and Antonio Franco opened La Estrella Bakery on October 31, 1986. Isabel Montaño, Erica Franco, and their two other siblings Sandra and Jorge Franco were still in school when they started working at their parents’ Mexican bakery.
Decades later, the family is now preparing for one of their busiest times of the year.
The three most popular bakery items during the holiday season are conchas (also known as pan de huevo), pan birote, and rosca de reyes. Each of these items are sold primarily for Christmas, New Years, and Dia de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings day.
The concha is offered in three different flavors: traditional, vanilla, and chocolate. The soft and spongy concha dough is made with cinnamon, vegetable shortening, flour, and egg.
“The pan dulce itself is popular during the entire year, especially during the holidays because that’s when most people have family over,” Erica said.
Pan birote is what people eat with menudo during Christmas and New Year’s. This bread is savory and typically served toasted with butter.
Dia de los Reyes Magos is celebrated on January 6. For this holiday, people buy Rosca de Reyes, a traditional cake made specifically for Dia de los Reyes Magos.
“Bakeries in general have always played a positive role in Mexican culture,” Isabel said. “It’s where people gather and meet, so I think for them to keep viewing us as that is what we want.”
Erica tries to bring in a lot of the cultural ideas that the bakery strives to incorporate in their business.
“We were the first bakery in Tucson to make the Mexican variety of three kings cake, so it’s neat to see the schools around us and museums embrace that tradition and learn about it,” Isabel said.
For the Franco family, “it’s a must” to work during Christmas and the New Year.
“We decided this is our second home, we don’t want to let it go,” Erica said.
There was a time Marta and Antonio Franco contemplated selling the bakery. In efforts to keep the bakery running under their family name, all four siblings committed to work together to keep the bakery going.
The bakery opened their second location six years ago in Mercado San Agustin on Congress Street.
“This is what shows you so much about the south side of Tucson,” Isabel said. “It’s how people strive to open their own business no matter what, everyone works hard to make ends meet and that is what we love about this part of town.”
Despite the growth of their bakery, Isabel and Erica say they want to stay as involved with the everyday business of the bakery as much as possible.
“We like to get dirty and do stuff,” Erica said. “We can’t stay still, we can’t help it and I love it that way.”
The family’s goal is to maintain their comforting and familiar relationship with customers.
Both sisters agree that at times they are overwhelmed by the amount of support they receive from the community at both La Estrella locations.
“We want customers to see us as family,” Erika said. “In Mexico, that’s how the bakeries are treated. We are much more than selling and buying.”
5266 S. 12th Avenue
120 South Avenida del Convento Suite 100