Don’t be discouraged if no one comes right away, Harry Coleman’s father told him the day before Empanada Harry’s opened in west Kendall.
Philip Coleman was thinking back to the day he took over Moises Bakery in Miami Beach in 1991. He made $10 on his first day. His business would grow into a landmark Venezuelan bakery in almost 30 years. But he knew how hard, quiet and anxious the first days of a new bakery can be.
And there was no telling how people would respond to the unconventional bakery his son was proposing, in a quiet mall on the edge of the western reaches of Miami-Dade.
Was the idea of selling only empanadas half baked?
But Harry Coleman was a believer. There were Venezuelan bakeries and Colombian bakeries and Cuban bakeries. But there was no single bakery where you could buy empanadas that brought all those countries’ empanadas — 23 different types, in all —under one roof, with a couple of his own creative flourishes thrown in. (Think bacon, dates with goat cheese or truffle mac and cheese.)
“Hispanic culture loves a bakery,” Harry Coleman said. “We’re from Miami, and Miami is a melting pot. We wanted it to be multicultural like Miami.”
Now, package it in a millennial-friendly space he and his wife designed and built themselves between shifts at his father’s bakery: reclaimed wood walls, pop art, black chalkboard to match their uniforms and Harry’s paperboy hat and bright-orange chairs to match his wife Michelle’s bandana and Crocs.
On the day the doors opened, Philip Coleman got a frantic, flour-dusted call from his son: “I need you to come right now.”
Philip Coleman arrived to find a line out the door.
“We sold out everything we had that day,” Harry Coleman said. “That’s when I knew.”
Empanada Harry never looked back. Since they opened in April 2017, Harry Coleman, 33, and his wife, Michelle, 31, have baked their empanada dream into a reality. The shop has become a weekday breakfast go-to and a non-stop weekend destination for the booming western suburb.
They may be the new kids on the block. But Harry Coleman’s bakery bloodlines run deep.
Baking’s all in the family
His Chilean grandmother, Gladys Jofre, had owned a bakery in Chile and move to Venezuela to open another in the 1980s, where Harry’s parents soon joined her. There, Philip Coleman took formal French baking classes and fell in love with the craft. When the opportunity came to open a bakery in South Florida, he and his wife moved here with 4-year-old Harry .
Harry grew up in his parents’ Moises Bakery in Miami Beach, and later worked with his grandmother through high school and college at his family’s second bakery, Charlotte Bakery on South Beach. When it looked like the family might have to sell the bakery just as he and his wife graduated with journalism degrees from Florida International in 2008, Harry convinved his father to let them run it.
Harry unknowingly fell in love with the family business. He learned to do every job from head baker to trash duty. He came up with new empanadas and offered them as monthly specials as Michelle ran the books. (“In my life, I’d never tasted anything like them. They were spectacular,” his father said.) And that got him thinking about opening his own bakery, one that reflected the couple’s younger sensibilities and made-in-Miami lives.
When his father got an offer to sell Charlotte Bakery late last year, the time seemed right for Harry Coleman to realize his dream of empanadas from around the world.
He wanted their basic empanadas to be an honest representation of each country’s. The savory Peruvian empanadas are dusted with powdered sugar the way they are in Peru. The Colombian versions have the yellow crunchy exterior. The Venezuelan empanadas are styled after the ones his grandmother makes. And the Argentine contain the traditional fillings beef and chopped egg. Coleman wants each country’s empanada faithfully represented.
“Miami’s a melting pot and so is our shop. That’s what we wanted to make here,” Michelle said.
“If it’s not right, I’d rather not make it,” Harry added.
Truffle mac and cheese empanadas?
Harry Coleman also freestyles. His Cuban Sandwich empanada tastes like a bite of the classic sandwich, with roasted pork, ham, Swiss and pickles. The Korean empanada uses marinated short rib. A Philly cheesesteak empanada uses shaved beef and is shaped like a hoagie. And a vegan empanada made with soy crumbles and dough yellowed with turmeric instead of eggwash had hard-core vegans asking if they’d accidentally sold them ground beef.
Yet, the bakery’s best seller is the classic chicken empanada, learned the way his father and grandmother, now 79 and retired, taught them.
“My eyes well up sometimes to see them following in the tradition and falling in love with the business,” said Gladys Jofre, who babysits the couple’s 6- and 4-year-old daughters while they work on the weekends. “When you have your family by your side, and you love the business, you are going to be successful.”
Brunch is a fusion of their Latin and American roots. There’s fried chicken croquetas atop a classic waffle with a honey-pepper sauce. Eggs benedict are served over flash-fried arepas instead of English muffins. And Venezuelan cachapas are made with Homestead-farmed corn.
“He’s always coming up with something new, and people are always coming in to ask what he’s going to come up with next,” Philip Coleman said.
On Fridays, you’ll find Philip Coleman there under the guise of helping make dessert — a decadent guava or rum tres leches Harry innovated — but actually wanting to spend time with his son and daughter-in-law. It’s a radically different bakery than the one he started on Miami Beach. But it’s got the same heart.
“A bakery can be a cool place with its own vibe,” Michelle Coleman said. “We want people to have that feeling here.”