MUSCATINE — When customers walk into Ninel's Mexican Bakery in Muscatine for the first time, the owners know what to expect — often, it's an exclamation of "Wow, it smells amazing in here!"
Glass cases filled with sweet bread, pastries, sugar cookies and tortas carry a sweet aroma throughout the newly opened bakery, at the Western Mall, 801 Oregon St. The only of its kind in Muscatine, Ninel's opened Aug. 5, in the strip mall being redeveloped by Tom Meeker.
While living in Muscatine for the past three years, Brenda Osorio has traveled to West Liberty each week to pick up her favorite treats at Acapulco Mexican Bakery.
Dining on Mexican pastries and sweet bread has been a daily tradition for the Osorio family. Brenda Osorio said her brother-in-law, Angel Osorio, has been baking sweet bread for about 30 years.
"So he really knows what he's doing," she said. "He learned when he was young, when then it was really part of how he survived."
Driving back and forth to West Liberty, the family realized, "if we know how to do this, why not see if we can make it work," she said.
"We didn't know if it would be good," Brenda Osorio said. "But we made the decision and really started with nothing."
Little by little, she said, the bakery started to grow. Monday, customers filed in and out of the restaurant, ordering coffee and choosing from a wide-variety of pastries and sweets. Osorio said business has been improving each week and the family continues to receive positive feedback.
"People have been loving it and thanking us for saving them the drive," she said.
Brenda Osorio and her husband, Gilberto Osorio, arrive at the bakery at 4 a.m., to prepare dough for sweet bread and put on a pot of coffee. Ninel's is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., so residents can stop in before or after work.
When the bakery is less busy, Brenda Osorio said, she lets her children join in the work, cleaning or organizing trays.
"We really want the kids to learn by being here, and they like helping with things," she said.
Ninel's Mexican Bakery, she said, is benefiting from the redevelopment of the Western Mall, which has seen several new businesses open in the past couple of months. This summer, Izalco, a Salvadorian-Mexican restaurant, plus Family Resources, and other businesses have opened.
Osorio said she "loves how [the Meekers] fixed up the outside, with the way it looks and the parking lot."
"It makes me happy to see," she said. "I've lived here three years and it used to not be busy. Now we see a lot of people driving through each day and stopping by, I keep thinking it's getting popular."
Ninel's Mexican Bakery can be reached at its Facebook page.