Tucked away in a rustic-looking mall of Bonita, Hans and Harry’s Bakery is a delectable gem for sweet-tooth lovers around the county. Their large array of cakes and baked goods are extremely high quality, which is why people wait in long lines during the weekends to get their share of heaven.
Dining Out did a feature on the Dutch owners in their Winter 2011/2012 edition. Bart Glovins wrote:
An elongated pastry slathered with rich Bavarian cream and loaded with fresh fruit, the strudel wouldn’t fit in a traditional pastry box, so Hans and Harry got creative and put them in rose boxes instead–the kind with the plastic windows.
Now these fruit strudels have their own custom boxes, befitting of their status, but the same ingenuity the pair showed in showcasing one of their prize products has been a big factor in the success of their legendary bakery. Hans and Harry have just celebrated their 20th successful year running a cozy bakery with modest but auspicious beginnings.
The Dutch due came to San Diego after spending years globetrotting aboard cruise ships and as merchant marines. Both studied baking in their native Holland and worked in various bakeries and hotels around Europe. the two met in their homeland, but came together professionally while working at the Marriott when it was the biggest hotel on the waterfront.
“At the Marriott, we worked for Executive Pastry Chef Rudy Weider,” Hans remembers.
“He was always very supportive of our ideas, and we’ve kept in touch. He was very important to us.” It was while working in Weider’s bake shop that the two decided that they really wanted to open a bakery of their own.
“We looked at many businesses for sale, but we weren’t finding what we were looking for–just lots of overpriced, neglected bakeries,” Hans says. “Then Harry followed-up on a two-line ad we saw in the newspaper: Used Bakery Equipment For Sale. Neither of us had ever been to Bonita, but once he got there, Harry called me right away. What he had found was a fully equipped bakery that a retired naval pilot had been running for two years.”
“We bought the bakery and were able to keep the front door open,” Harry chimes. “We haven’t looked back.”
Initially, Hans & Harry’s catered to hotels and restaurants in the area, but those avenues were phased out as retail demand for their amazing creations grew and grew. By this point, Harry had taken the reigns in teh kitchen and Hans was running operations behind the scenes. The bakery has also expanded since its formative days, annexing space next door formerly occupied by a liquor store.
What hasn’t changed is the attention to detail. Twenty years ago, it was just Harry, Hans, and a girl working the register; now they employ 25 people. Doors open at 6:30am and there’s often a line of folks waiting to pick up treats for business meetings or parties. Mocha Strudels (tempting all eyes with Bavaraian cream, mocha flavored whipped cream, almond crunch, chocolate drizzle, and bittersweet chocolate shavings), butter croissants in all varieties (plain, almond, chocolate, blueberry, Bavarian, and fresh fruit), and cakes like the Black Forest (thwarting diets with a recipe inspired by Hans’ work in Germany that boasts moist chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse, sour cherries, kirsch-favored whipped cream, and lots of dark chocolate shavings) dazzle behind the glass0and nothing stays in one place for long.
And then there’s that Fresh Fruit Strudel. “We were working with fresh fruits and we came up with the idea of creating something with puff pastry,” Hans says of its origins. “It’s not heavy, it’s tasty, it’s fruity, and it’s fresh!”
“If you put fresh fruit on something, people like to buy it,” Harry laughs.
“The day before Christmas, we go through 100-150 cases of strawberries for the strudel,” Hans adds, giving indication of just how popular the strudel has become. Of course, the delectable goodies that the loyal and growing customer base ferries away so easily are part of a labor-intensive creation that begins as the clock strikes midnight. But for all the volume and hard work that goes into filling their cases each morning, the passion and love are still the main ingredients.
“We still enjoy the trade so much, we don’t plan on stopping any time soon,” Hans says. “We’ll just carry on.”
With the sweet teeth of San Diego pledging allegiance, we’ll carry on right beside them.
Sure the article whet’s your palette, but here’s an additional visual tour of the place if you’re not convinced that Hans & Harry’s is THE place to be:
Address: 5080 Bonita Road, Bonita, CA 91902