Midtown Bakery – Sacramento Magazine
When it came to giving career advice, Angela Harris asked her two children to find their passion and the money would come. This was ironic, given that Harris herself had focused on getting a well-paying job; loving his job came last. But that all changed during the pandemic. It was then that, at the behest of his children, Harris decided to follow his heart and open a bakery in downtown Sacramento.
Rightly named Midtown Bakery, his pocket store (open since the end of March) is a passionate project for Harris. During the week, she takes on a full-time job as the director of clinical operations for a community health clinic. But on the weekends, she gets up at 2 a.m. and goes to the bakery to prepare the ingredients and bake all the cookies, muffins, cakes and pies for sale later in the day. Her husband, Thomas, an artist with a parallel job in construction, helps.
The boutique is open Saturdays and Sundays only, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. And if you don’t get there early, you might be missing out on some of Harris’ most popular products, like French cabbage, a cinnamon-sugar rolled butter muffin; banana, nut and caramel cake; or Amish Bread, a tender, cinnamon-tinted coffee cake with a crispy sugar top. When the store is full, Harris simply closes early.
During the week, when she’s not at her regular job, Harris does R&D for the bakery, trying out new things to add to the menu. An experimental cinnamon bun and a vegan blueberry muffin both made the cut. A bacon-potato pie was recently tried; pizza can come next. Family and friends act as the initial testers, but the real decision makers are Harris’ customers. She’ll put something new in the case and see if it sells.
The store goes a little under the radar. Although the bakery has a J Street address, its entrance is actually at 23rd Street. There is no signage or storefront, so you must know what you are looking for or have the chance to stumble upon it while walking around the city center. You step through a side door the size of a Hobbit and step into a tiny space, no more than 200 square feet. (Behind a door is a kitchen, office, and storage space that you can’t see.) The baked goods are displayed in a small bakery crate and on a few shelves. An oval table in a gilded frame lists the offerings of the day.
Midtown Bakery is just one of many prime locations concentrated within a few blocks of downtown. Ginger Elizabeth Patisserie, Babes Ice Cream & Donuts, Rick’s Dessert Diner and Icing on the Cupcake shop are all located on J Street, a short walk from the bakery. Harris set himself apart from the competition by choosing a distinct niche for his business: carefully selected classic American desserts like carrot cake, lemon meringue pie and peanut butter cookies. âThis is something I learned in my entrepreneurship-focused executive MBA program,â she explains. âThere is nothing new to invent. It’s the experience you provide to your customers that matters.
Keeping the business small and manageable is another point of difference. Harris has no employees; she and her husband take care of everything from purchasing ingredients to managing the cash register. This allows them to have a bond with their customers. âThomas and I take our time,â says Harris. âWe’re not trying to rush into anything. We intentionally increased slowly. We try to understand what people like and what hours to work. It worked pretty well for us.
As a child, Harris learned to cook from her mother, and she has since learned more by watching pastry chefs and bakers on YouTube and following recipes from online sites such as Food52. As someone who baked for her sweet-loving family, she can now create larger-scale baked goods for a wider audience. âIt’s my passion,â she said. “I love the joy it brings to people.”
2301 J St. (entered on 23rd Street)