. ITZA bakeshop
Beltine bakeshop cooks up culinary community
Work started out like any day for Alex Chan, owner of Beltline bakery ITZA Bakeshop.
Dough was rolled, bread was baked, and pastries were put on display. Shoppers at the historical Devenish were at the mercy of the intoxicating scent of freshly-baked goods drifting out of the quaint bakery.
By noon the lunch crowd has begun to trickle in to purchase their mid-day pick-me-up.
“I’m not doing anything weird here, I’m trying to bring comfort back and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying something in moderation,” the baker explained while clutching her steal coffee mug.
While ITZA Bakeshop has been in operation for just over a year, the bakery has established a cult following within Calgary.
Positive reviews on Urbanspoon.com and various food blog posts have garnered attention to the shop and word-of-mouth has proven more valuable than print advertising.
“I spend no money on advertising, which makes word-of-mouth so important,” she said.
However, for a small business like ITZA Bakeshop, bad reviews can be detrimental to sales and decrease the customer base.
“You have to take the bad with the good,” she clarified. “This bakery is my livelihood; it’s a personal extension of me.”
Playful fondant structures and newspaper clippings of Chan’s achievements adorn the brightly colored walls and window sills in the shop, further amplifying her personality and extensive baking history.
“This place is held together by love, and I’ve had the most talented people help put it together.”
As a counter girl at the now-closed Eiffel Tower Bakery on 17th Avenue, the ambitious chef took a substantial pay cut in order to learn invaluable techniques from the accomplished French bakers.
Chan reminisces, “It was all self-driven; as long as I got all of my work done they would let me shape croissants.”
After working as a pastry chef in various Calgary restaurants, Chan went on to open Bistro 2210 located in Calgary’s historic Wright Block on 4th Street.
After her experience in the century-old building, the ITZA Bakeshop owner swore she would never reside within a heritage estate again.
Still, after an extensive search for the perfect location on 17th Avenue, Chan ended up taking residence in the also 100 year-old Devenish Building.
Previous relations with the landlord and tenants made the archaic apartment complex the ideal spot for the new bakery.
Although, Chan muses that soon-to-be brides often avoid the bake shop when looking for dresses at Ethos, a bridal wear store just down the hall from her.
"When brides are trying on dresses, the last thing they want to do is eat cake. We get a lot of requests for celebrations and birthdays.” To meet the demands of dietary restrictions, the NAIT graduate has experimented with diary and gluten free recipes and has successfully added new recipes to her repertoire.
But in a bakery that uses flour and butter on a daily basis, creating the decadent confections is often a challenge
“I need my customers alive. We strive to have the customer enjoy the entire cake, but in a bakery where I constantly use flour, some restrictions are difficult.” Chan clarified.
Even with the abundance of bakeries in the Beltline and on 17th Avenue, Chan doesn’t view the shops of competition. “More bakers promote a community and culture in the area. You can’t compare us because we are not all doing the same thing.”
Stop by ITZA Bakeshop for a daily assortment of fresh pastries ranging from lemon tarts to quiches.