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La Especial Survives

Miguel Orrnelas talks about the damages a December 31, 2017 fire caused to the back of the bakery as he stands by a brick oven spared by the fire.

by Tony Vindell/LFN

Every city and town in the Rio Grande Valley has one or two bakeries that sell Mexican-styled bread, or pan dulce.

San Benito has two of them – La Especial and Karina’s Bakery.

La Feria has La Feria Bakery and Panaderia La Mexicana, which sell pan dulce and other baked goods.

The same goes for other RGV towns like Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen.

But San Benito’s La Especial has a special place in the pan dulce industry.

“We have been here since 1938,” Miguel Ornelas, a family member who owns and runs the bakery, said. “We have been making homemade bread ever since and continue to do so today.”

The bakery, located on West Robertson Street, has become a sort of landmark for people from all over the Valley.

But in late December of last year, the back of the store that has an old-fashioned brick oven caught on fire and the nearly five hour inferno forced the Ornelas to close the bakery, costing them more than $40,000 in repairs and in lost sales.

The bakery was closed during the first two and a half weeks of January.

A customer places an order of pan dulce at the San Benito bakery that has been in business since 1938.

Although it reopened in the middle of that month, many people still believe it has been closed ever since the fire.

“We have been repeatedly asked if we are still closed,” Ornelas said. “We tell them no, but they keep on asking us.”

To clarify the misunderstanding, the bakery held a grand reopening at 9 a.m. Friday, April 6 and Ornelas said everybody was invited to stop by.

He said La Especial is a name given by his grandfather Enrique but does not know the reason behind it.

The bakery employs about 20 people, including six who work up front and about a dozen panaderos, or bakers.

They make more than a 1,000 pieces of bread each day of the week. Ornelas said molletes and pumpkin empanadas are among the favorite pieces of bread people buy.

They also bake brisket and whole turkeys brought in by their clients.

He recommends to bring the meats early in the week so it be prepared and ready for a weekend.

Ornelas said they have clients from all over the Valley and even from Matamoros, a Mexican border city across from Brownsville.

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