Chapter 1: They meet.
Once upon a time, in Miami in the 1980s, two young Cuban immigrants work together at a supermarket bakery — their names are Olga and Juan.
Olga is a skilled cake decorator whose artistic talents earn her roles in grand openings and commercials for the grocery chain.
Juan has quickly worked his way up to assistant manager, having learned the art of pastry making at his previous job.
“I would have to say what attracted us to each other was that we were both hard workers and young, motivated individuals,” recalled Olga Montano. “After hitting it off and beginning our relationship, we were able to get a second job together in the afternoons, producing desserts and pastries for a local university. From this came the idea about opening our own small bakery.”
Working side by side, they fall in love and marry.
Chapter 2: They dream.
The Montanos’ newly blended family consists of three children at first, but it will grow to six as the years pass.
Their dream to open their own bakery continues to grow, as well.
“We talked it over with a few family members — some agreed, others didn't — but we were determined we could do it,” said Olga Montano. “The early stages were scary for us — we were leaving two well-paying, stable jobs, with three young babies and another one on the way — to try something we had never ever done on our own.”
Overcoming their fears and the many other challenges faced by first-time business owners, the Montanos open Party Cake Bakery in May of 1993. The 1,300-square-foot shop is located in Miami.
Chapter 3: They bake.
The early years at Party Cake are thrilling and tiring for the family.
With the workday often running from 2 a.m. to midnight, the bakery essentially becomes the family’s second home. The children sleep on the tables while Olga and Juan Montano prep, bake, sell, and clean. Then they do it all over again.
“The first few years were a roller coaster of emotions,” said Juan Montano. “At first we were extremely excited to finally open our own small business, but we realized early on it was not as easy as it had looked — we were building something from absolutely nothing.”
After struggling to find their footing, an aha moment occurs for the Montanos when a family friend suggests they better define their product offerings and focus solely on Cuban-based baked goods.
“Little by little we saw our bakery evolving — but the biggest change came one holiday when traditionally all bakeries and stores are closed, but we decided to take advantage and stay open,” Juan Montano recalled. “That day we sold more than we ever had before, but more importantly we developed a customer base, some of which are still customers today.”
From that point forward, the bakery starts to gain traction, becoming a daily stop for many local residents. Their focus on authentic Cuban breads, pastries, and coffee quickly become synonymous with the Party Cake Bakery brand.
Chapter 4: They grow.
Over the next eight years, Party Cake Bakery becomes a fixture for Miami’s Cuban community. And it’s around this time that Olga and Juan Montano see an opportunity to expand and take over a struggling nearby bakery.
“Since a young boy, I’ve always wanted more, sometimes more than what I can handle,” admitted Juan Montano. “Again, we ride this roller coaster, excited at first, but then the daunting task of lifting up a business that had been knocked down. We also ran into the dynamic of working separately, as Olga stayed in the original store, and I moved to the second store. But with the previous knowledge and mistakes from the first opening, we knew we can get it turned around quickly.”
Over the next 15 years, this blueprint for success becomes something the couple will leverage several times over, growing Party Cake Bakery to 10 different locations around Miami.
Now, as their children begin to make their mark on the family business, a new form of expansion is in the works. At the forefront, an 8,000-square-foot warehouse building they have purchased with the help of a U.S. Small Business Administration 7a loan backed by Wells Fargo.
“This warehouse is definitely one of the most exciting times of our business history. The location will house a state-of-the-art retail bakery in the front, with bakery production in the back,” said the Montanos’ son Alex. “The cool thing about it is, instead of the production being hidden in the back like most places, this warehouse will be all open kitchen, so the customers will see the making of the bread, pastries, and cakes.”
Chapter 5: They love happily ever after.
The build-out and redesign of the warehouse building in south Miami is moving forward. Once completed, the family sees it as the hub for future growth, which may include expansion outside of Miami and eventually even into other states.
With so much at stake, the Montanos are thankful to have recently moved all of their financial needs under one roof with Wells Fargo, working with business banker Elena Santana on not only their SBA loan, but also on merchant services, payroll, and treasury management.
“The relationship with Wells Fargo has been a strong one since the first day we met with Elena and her banking team,” said Alex Montano. “We came out of the meeting not only impressed, but with the thought of ‘Wow, they really want our business and care for it.’”
The warehouse location will represent the 11th Party Cake Bakery in Miami, growing a company that already employs nearly 200 people today. That is a long way from where the Montanos started 25 years ago.
“There have been many times that were difficult, and we wanted to quit,” said Juan Montano. “But with our determination and drive to make the business great, we were able to get through the hard times.”
The next chapters in their story remain unwritten, but the couple now knows that even when the journey gets rough, their love for each other, their children, and their bakery will always help them overcome whatever challenges come next. And of course, there will be cake. Delicious cake.