It's a Thursday afternoon in early November, and a cold front has triggered swells off South Pointe Drive. Two tanned teenagers, wearing black wetsuits and carrying bulky surfboards, saunter across the tony street, past the bustling F1RST Surf Shop, and to the breezy shore. The air smells like sunblock and the ocean.
This is the scene outside Lee & Marie's Cakery Company. Inside are mismatched wooden chairs, dainty armoires with ceramic plates, and bountiful bins of oatmeal cookies and blueberry muffins. Displays showcase petite key lime tarts and decadent devil's food cakes. The 700-square-foot setting bespeaks comfort, warmth, rusticity, and charm.
Miami has never been a bakery city. Though Cuban bread and pastelitos abound here, good sourdoughs and croissants are few and far between.
So it was encouraging this past September when the area saw the simultaneous launch of two like-minded, independently owned bakeries. In addition to South Pointe's Lee & Marie's, Acme Bakery & Coffee opened in the burgeoning midtown district. Both offer a menu of American-style baked goods, sandwiches, and salads. Foods feature farm-fresh ingredients, and items are sold at similar prices.
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But what first seemed like a surge in Miami's bakery scene turned out to be something quite different. After operating for three months, both spots lack a steady clientele, particularly during weekdays, and both struggle with a haphazard inventory of baked goods. There are no long lines waiting for fresh loaves of bread, crowds stopping by for coffee, or aromas that captivate with notes of warm butter and sugar. In other words, the places are often empty.