The Famous Strawberry Squares that started it all...
I met Alex Llaneza's mother at Hardcore Gallery, on N. Miami Ave., and she beamed when she told me the tale of his 'secret recipe' cakes. I thought, in honor of Mother's Day (and if you need to do some last minute cake-buying), I would share Alex's story, in his own words.
"Growing up in a family where eating well and often was of utmost importance, and most family members are food connoisseurs (going all the way back to my great-grandmother, Oportuna Cueto, looking to an old family recipe when I wanted to make some extra money was intuitive.
It all started my sophomore year of high school when I noticed guys making decent money selling sandwiches. Realizing that specific market was saturated, I decided to try selling dessert. Coincidently, there was this amazing cake my great-aunt, Tia Berta Llaneza, would make at family lunches (recipe was handed down by my great-grandmother) which not only did I love, but I found it to be pretty addictive. From a business standpoint I thought it was perfect!
I presented the idea to my mom, Rochi Llaneza, and she quickly jumped aboard for the production. We cut the cake into 24 pieces and packaged them in individual zip-loc bags. The next day I came home with $26…selling them at a dollar a piece, I had to auction off the last two. The cakes were a hit!
But things quickly got a little more complicated. I went to an all boys high school, Christopher Columbus, and what I was doing was technically not “legal.” Initially, I had the support of certain teachers, like Mr. Lightfoot, who allowed me to sell during the first few minutes of class, but eventually I got caught. After a week of detention and some advice from teachers and friends, I brought a couple guys on the team and gave them a percentage of sales. This went on until I graduated, and I made more money my senior year of high school than my first year in college working at a bank.
As friends went away for school I continued getting requests so I set up a small website [http://www.llanezasweets.com/]. In the mean time, I've pursued another family business and hobby, and opened a cigar store, Puros Fine Cigars, with my cousin Alejandro Alcorta at 10792 Coral Way (305-218-5880). Ultimately, my experiences have led me to conclude that working at something you are truly passionate about will almost certainly lead to success."
Happy Mother's Day...