An indulgent breakfast classic has been reimagined at Cinna Box, a brick-and-mortar cinnamon-roll shop at 2145 East 120th Avenue in Northglenn that began its life as a humble food truck two years ago. Since January, chef/owner Alexander Del Valle has been luring residents of the north suburb to his sweet cafe, but word is getting out, and Cinna Box is quickly becoming a destination spot because of the unique, "Instagrammable" luxury of its cinnamon rolls.
"The whole thing about cinnamon rolls is that they aren't really trendy," says Del Valle. "Mine are, because I'm doing something really new with them, but in general, cinnamon rolls will be around forever. Everyone has an aunt or grandma who just the smell of cinnamon rolls reminds them of."
When it comes to baking style, Del Valle allows the ingredients to speak for themselves. He sources organic-only ingredients: farm-fresh eggs, milk, even local cherries that are only available for one week of the year. Why organic? "It's what I eat, and also, it tastes better," he explains. "Even these eggs I get from a local farmer — they're a lot more expensive, but it's worth it."
The move from a food truck to a store was no small feat. "I feel like we're a lot better now than we were then," says Del Valle. A fresh-faced chef and owner at 27, he doesn't fit the stereotypical "pop" description in "mom-and-pop shop," which generally conjures an image of an older couple with kids who are working the counter. While Del Valle and his wife, Samantha, haven't put their one-year-old Dexter to work quite yet, he's already grown up in the cafe and the restaurant industry. "We're just getting started," Del Valle notes.
The storefront has given Cinna Box the opportunity to expand its creative offerings; Del Valle has added quiches, pies, cakes, cookies and drinks such as a housemade lemonade and cold-brew lattes. Note the meticulous details: Cinna Box cold-brews coffee in a 48-hour process using whole milk instead of water — hence the term "cold-brew latte." Del Valle takes it a step further and makes ice cubes from cold-brew coffee, which prevents the cubes from watering down the drink as they melt.
Del Valle's own favorite from his lineup of confections? "You know, honestly, what I find myself eating the most would be the peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookie," he says. "I do eat mini-rolls, a few every day. But the big cinnamon rolls, you gotta sit down and eat it. I'm a sucker for all the new fruit flavors. I added cream cheese to the menu three months ago. Fresh fruit, cream cheese and cinnamon roll: It's delicious."
A plus to the Cinna Box expansion lies in the shop's ability to now fill large-scale orders. With the food truck, this was no easy task. But one of the reasons for choosing the Northglenn location — far from hip Denver neighborhoods — was so that Del Valle could build the catering side of the business in a commercial-sized kitchen. And the extra elbow room has done the business well.
In spite of expansion, the unrivaled stars of the space are still the cinnamon rolls. Coming in big and mini sizes, they include blueberry, strawberry, classic Italian buttercream, and cream-cheese frosting. Seasonal flavors of cinnamon rolls vary depending on what Del Valle finds locally, from Palisade peaches in the summer and a caramel-pecan-pie roll in the winter. "This caramel we actually make here," the baker points out. "It's super dark; I've just been pushing it and pushing it. It's just organic cream, organic sugar and butter."
Del Valle says that "the way we do things, the way we mix our cookie dough by hand" is what set Cinna Box apart. "I did it by hand, and I was like, 'Okay, this is way better.' It makes all the difference."
"It's an experience that you seek," he continues. "Denver's full of these so-called hidden gems that nobody's heard of, in the back of a strip mall, and that's what we are. A lot of the customers have family friends they bring from out of town; they always bring them in here. Like, Cinna Box is that local spot."
What does the future hold for Cinna Box? "We're starting to make money, which is awesome," the young entrepreneur notes. "Starting to finally make some money; people are ordering hundreds of cinnamon rolls at a time. So the catering aspect, office events. Our plan would be to make money and open up another location. I'd like to have three or four locations in the Denver and Boulder area, eventually."