Once Named Yelp's #1 Bakery In U.S., Izola Revives In San Diego's East Village

June 25, 2024

After closing its original location late last year due to violation of food permit requirements, Izola Bakery has reopened in the former Amplified Ale Works space in San Diego's East Village.

Izola ownership has soft opened in the 5,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor building that last housed the very short-lived ModBom and Amplified Ale Works before that adjacent to Fault Line Park at the corner of 14th and Island in San Diego's East Village. The new space houses a basement level prep kitchen and ample cafe area with indoor and outdoor seating. Once fully up and running, expect Izola to roll out new menu offerings, including items like a ramen croissant with miso, mustard greens and a shot of broth, as well as options like chicken Cordon Bleu and carnitas croissants. 

In early 2020, Jeffrey Brown and Jenny Chen returned from a trip to Europe to find themselves in forced quarantine together. After jumping aboard the bread-making trend that emerged in the early days of the pandemic, the duo began selling their breads and pastries from a tiny space above Brown's former photo studio in a building on 13th and G streets in San Diego's East Village. Using rock climbing equipment, the couple would take pre-orders and lower a rigged basket to the sidewalk beneath to maintain social distancing with customers. 
On their first day in business in June 2020, 12 croissants were lowered from their third floor window to customers below. The word quickly spread and curiousity of the operation flourished, as did the couple's passion for their newfound hobby-turned-business. As the pandemic subsided and restrictions were lifted, Izola repurposed the former photo studio into a cafe space for customers to enjoy their baked goods with coffee and live musical performances. The business eventually became a destination for hungry customers with long waitlists and lines out the door. Demand grew to a boiling point when in June 2022 crowd-sourced review platform Yelp named Izola the #1 bakery in the United States.

Izola operated for more than three years at 710 13th Street with only a Class B Cottage Food Operation food permit issued by the Department of Environmental Health and Quality Food and Housing Division, which is typically limited to extremely small businesses making food products in their own home kitchen. Class B Cottage Food Operation businesses are legally not permitted to have more than $150,000 in gross annual sales in a calendar year, but Izola was surpassing that limit on a monthly basis. The company also had between 16-33 employees, whereas licensed Cottage Food Operation are limited to only having one non-family employee.

Because they were operating a far larger operation than their food permit allowed, late last year the bakery was forced to either scale back its operations or substantially upgrade the kitchen and restaurant space. Izola ultimately closed its East Village bakery last fall, hoping to perform renovations necessary to reopen in the space in early 2024, but that proved impossible

For well over a year, Izola has promoted plans to move its headquarters into a 4,790 square-foot building in the Azalea Park neighborhood of San Diego's City Heights in order to scale their operation to meet demand. In addition to opening a new production facility and cafe, the team hoped to purchase a bake truck in order to ship their breads and pastries to eateries around the city, as well as launch an Izola bake-at-home program. IZOLA has already received more than $1.6 million in investment funds through Mainvest, but claims it is not enough. Ownership claims that building their zero-emission dough factory and bakeshop is a $7.5 million dollar project.

Izola is now open Tuesday through Thursday from 7am to 2pm at 1429 Island Avenue in San Diego's East Village. For more information, visit izolabakery.com.