Just over a year ago, beloved local bakery Dulce became Dulce Capital. And the story behind the change? It’s a sweet one.
Molly and Armando Martinez met in English class at Santa Fe Community College. They got married in April 2016 — he was in the National Guard and served overseas, while she worked at local bakeries, including Dulce. They had two children — now 4 and 2 — and then opportunity struck.
They bought the bakery on Don Diego Avenue in September 2020 from its original owners, Kirk Barnett and Dennis Adkins. “We decided it was the perfect opportunity for us because we were young enough to withstand the risk of taking on a new business during a pandemic,” Armando Martinez said.
They put a fresh twist on the business name and ramped up the menu with a few new offerings — but kept the commitment to high-quality ingredients and from-scratch baking.
“Everything they did we kept exactly the same,” Armando Martinez said. “But we added some things — soups made from scratch, breakfast burritos, a breakfast sandwich with housemade ciabatta” and a few other sweet treats, along with expanding into wedding cakes and offering a Sunday brunch menu.
They also brought a commitment to giving back. Last year, Dulce donated 15 complete, from-scratch Thanksgiving meals to local families in need, and the Martinezes hope to give 20 more this year. They’ve hosted fundraising meals for Santa Fe High School sports teams, and they’re working to offer after-school tutoring hours at the bakery.
Their reasoning: They were lucky to be able to buy a business in the middle of a pandemic.
Of the Thanksgiving meals, Armando Martinez said: “It was the right thing to do because a lot of people were hurting. 2020 was a great year for us because we got to chase our dreams. It was something in our hearts that we had to do — that was the best thing we could do that was the most meaningful.”
Dulce’s owners hope to launch the weekly tutoring hours — where students can get academic help from volunteers alongside a muffin and a drink — by the new year, assuming coronavirus cases retreat from their current highs.
“This is something I wish I had when I was a kid,” Armando Martinez said. “It wasn’t as easy to ask for help in the school system back then, and there weren’t as many resources. There were times I needed help with math or something, and there wasn’t somewhere I could go. This gives them a safe place; it gets them inside somewhere warm and safe.”
Dulce’s interior is colorful and airy, with pops of bright yellow, blue and red, warm wood flooring and exposed ductwork with plenty of pendant lighting. Glass cases offer a tantalizing array of cakes, pies, desserts and a dozen or so bakery items.
To get a sense of the scope, over two separate recent visits I took home a dense, sugary lemon bar dusted with powdered sugar; a cardamon morning bun; an oversized blueberry muffin; and decadently buttery plain and savory croissants.
Dulce, Molly Martinez said, is one of the few places in town that makes its croissants from scratch — it takes about five hours to make just one batch. The bakery also has a reputation for the best blueberry muffins in town, and there’s certainly a childlike delight in diving into one, with their sweet, cake-like texture allowing the tartness of the berries to shine.
But I was thrilled to pick up Dulce’s take on the morning bun, which I first tried in San Francisco and have obsessed about ever since. Morning buns are made with croissant dough and loaded with sugar and spices. Firm on the outside, they peel apart in layers of crumbly, flaky, sugary magic.
I also had to pick up a wedge of quiche, another Dulce signature item. On the day I visited, the shop offered four varieties, including one with spinach, feta, tomato and caramelized onion, and one with bacon, potato, tomato, green chile and green onion.
“Dulce is known for our quiche,” Molly Martinez said. “We make everything from scratch. We crack all the eggs. We counted it once — we go through around 1,800 eggs a week.”
Both visits, I ordered a well-made Americano; the shop’s full range of coffee and espresso drinks use local Agapao coffee. Dulce also serves a variety of tea and tea drinks, hot chocolate and other beverages.
The new Sunday brunch offers a different experience: an intentionally streamlined menu that lets a few key dishes shine. You’ll find quiche and blueberry muffins, but also omelettes, huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, French toast and sweet or savory grits. Kids options are also available.
All week long, though, Dulce Capital’s owners keep the focus on crafting their food and drink with good ingredients and a lot of care and time.
“You can’t cut corners on stuff like that,” Molly Martinez said. “These little things add up to make fantastic things that people love getting.”