Baking is in his blood: South Portland's Carlos Garcia honors a family tradition

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SOUTH PORTLAND — For some who devote themselves to an age-old trade, their expertise may seem like a refined art form.

But Carlos Garcia doesn’t buy it. 

“I’m not an artist. I do it to survive; I like doing it, but I love making a living doing it,” Garcia said on Wednesday night as he twisted strips of dough into Danishes at Mainly Grains Bakers, a bakery on Broadway he co-owns with his wife, Deb.

The business, at 904 Broadway, is a quaint operation. A little more than a year old, it offers fresh daily selections of breads, rolls, baguettes and sweet and occasionally savory pastries, including Danishes, muffins, cookies, and hand-pies. 

Despite the newness of the operation, it has been a plan in Garcia’s mind for years.

He emigrated with his family from Portugal to Boston in the late 1960s, when he was 6, and still remembers the pride he felt about the move. 

“Going to America was a big thing, it was moving up,” Garcia, 52, said. 

From a young age, before and after his move, Garcia was reared by bakers.

Important men in Garcia’s family earned a living baking, both in Portugal and in the United States, including his grandfather, uncle and father. His father, after having worked in bakeries in Portugal, opened his own before they moved to Massachusetts. 

“My basketball and football was going to the bakery and working as a little kid,” Garcia said. 

For him, as he grew into a teenager and moved to Maine, becoming a baker was never a conscious decision the way that some people go to college to pursue a specific career. Garcia simply assumed he would eventually bake for a living.

In hindsight, Garcia, who is practically nocturnal, wishes he had opened his own place sooner. “This probably would’ve been easier when I was younger and had a little more stamina, instead of (now) having one foot in the hole.”

After hauling fish for many years in Portland and feeling the strain of hard labor, he decided to stop putting off his eventual fate.

“I always had it, it has always been in my mind,” Garcia said of baking. “You keep getting older and if you don’t do it at some point, the longer you wait, the less energy you’re able to put out.”

Garcia works six nights a week from about 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. One of his sons, Nick, 18, arrives at 5 each morning to deliver bread to businesses that buy wholesale from the bakery. Deb runs the retail side, which is open Tuesday through Sunday.

Because Garcia is the singular baker, everything purchased is hand crafted by him. 

“It’s not an easy trip, it’s isolating,” he said of his all-night schedule. “But it brings me back to when I used to be with my grandfather and father.”

Everyone has a life aspiration, and his is baking, Garcia said. Aside from it providing him with an income, the business is a tribute to his family.

“It’s my tribute to see if I can do it,” he said. “… This is my family living, and I want to live seeing if I can do it, too.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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Carlos Garcia bakes all night, six nights a week at the South Portland bakery, Mainly Grains Bakers, that he and his wife, Deb, opened about a year and a half ago on Broadway.

Carlos Garcia twists dough into Danishes on Wednesday night, Jan. 7, at Mainly Grains Bakers in South Portland.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.