Paul Amick and Ken Urias, the couple who have made the Town Baker a local sensation, practice artistry — both in the kitchen and in front of the house management.
About to celebrate the Town Baker’s one-year anniversary, Amick and Urias have built a destination business based on sterling service and fabulous food.
“Art” is defined as “the quality, production, expression or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing and of more than ordinary significance.” By this definition, what Amick and Urias have accomplished in the kitchen and with customer service is certainly beautiful, appealing and of a great deal more than ordinary significance.
Both say they have been lucky and are grateful that from day one they have been busy, but skill, attention to detail and personally managing every aspect of the business have proven fundamental to their success.
“Nothing in this kitchen comes out of a box; everything is made from scratch,” said Navy vet Amick. “We do all our own shopping and hand pick items based on customer requests,” said Texas native Urias. “What is paramount is talking to and knowing our customers. They walk in, nod and go out to the back and our serving staff brings out their orders, knowing what they want. There are some of our customers who spend entire mornings or most of their day here. They are that comfortable.”
And as is the case with many artists, their craft has not been honed under arduous apprenticeships with demanding professionals, but seems to have come from native and natural skills.
“We’ve owned no business prior to this one,” said Amick. “I just baked and cooked at home, and grew up cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen.” Raised near Bakersfield, Amick said his high school Future Farmers of America projects were in carrots and potatoes. He knows ingredients.
“After the Navy, I worked at a coffee house in San Diego and learned something about restaurant management.” He took the proceeds from the sale of his house in San Diego and sank it into the business, taking control on Sept. 3, 2014. “We used the money to buy equipment and fixtures and then there was no more left,” Amick remembered. “Thankfully, we had customers and were busy from the beginning and were able to continue to make improvements and modifications from the proceeds,” said Urias.
“When I took this over I just wanted to be a baker, not a short-order cook, but with the onset of winter  we had to expand into breakfast,” said Amick. “With that expansion, I didn’t have the time to do what I had wanted to do — to be creative with beautiful cakes and pies, to make elegant stuff. I had wanted evenings to have an elegant dessert and coffee service menu for locals. I also want to start making bread. I’d love to do that here.”
And just as visual and performing artists change styles and grow as artists, Amick and Urias continue to grow the Town Baker and its offerings — including interior modifications, an expanded deck and backyard seating, and plans for the “elegant” bakery offerings they had temporarily put on hold.
“From the beginning, we wanted to make this a gathering spot for the locals,” said Amick. “And we listened to our customers,” said Urias. “One day a customer said, ‘Why don’t you make a little pastry with spinach and feta?’” remembered Amick. “That same day I looked up some recipes and had it for sale the next day.”
“I never say ‘no’ to a customer request for an item,” said Urias. “I’ll say, ‘Just give me some time to find it.’”
Amick and Urias are both hikers and the Pacific Crest Trail played an important part in winding up in Idyllwild. “I came through in 2011, intending a thru-hike, and stayed here for two days,” Amick said. “In 2014, Ken and I came through looking for a home and thinking of Ashland [Oregon]. We had sold the house in San Diego.”
They never got to Ashland and decided to stay in Idyllwild. For that, their customers are grateful. Amick and Urias are on site and attend to every detail of food prep and business management personally. “No one does it like an owner,” said Amick. “We think of our customers as family,” said Urias.
And since art is what moves and inspires others with its beauty, based on talent, attention to detail, skill and finesse, Amick and Urias are celebrated Idyllwild artists.