ALEXANDRIA, La. (WNTZ) – Once upon a time, there was a little girl who wanted a bakery. So, that is exactly what she did. Neila Craig made this fairytale her life’s work. Growing up in Juiz de Fora Brazil, she found herself baking with her mother often, and became fascinated by the craft. “On my mother’s birthday,” Neila recounts, “I wanted to bake everything. They enjoyed what I made so much, that I became the person to bake for many family occasions.” That nostalgia and wonderment are very much evident in each of Doce Vida’s extraordinarily hand-crafted baked goods.

You may be wondering, “How did a Brazilian bakery land in Alexandria, Louisiana?” The answer is love. Neila was a foreign exchange student, “and that I was the interpreter for a missionary family when they went to Brazil for a mission trip. They invited me to spend Christmas with them, and after the new year’s celebrations we went on a ski trip from LC,” recalls Neila, as we dive into passionfruit (made with real passion fruit) macarons. “I met this guy there,” giggled the bakery owner, “who seemed to follow me around everywhere.” Imagine, the time is 1992. Cellphones have antennas, AOL reigns, and long-distance calls cost an arm and a leg. Neila remembers them “[writing] letters to each other often and [speaking] on the phone maybe once a month.” Their devotions led to wedding bells, the making of a Cenla home, and building of a beautiful family.

Nearly five years ago, the bakery owner made a decision that would forever change her life. Neila quit her full time as a teacher’s aide to dedicate the totality of her focus toward baking. Neila describes selling pies and cakes at The Alexandria and Inglewood’s famers markets for 6 years. “I went from baking about 20 items a weekend, to hundreds.” Now, macarons, cakes, tarts, shortbreads, jellies, and margherita cookies adorn the shelves of Doce Vida in vibrant multitudes.

Doce Vida’s success brings forth a space where Neila provides a cultivation of experiences for the community. The venue is reminiscent of a storybook and is the perfect place to host parties and business get-togethers. The Brazilian Bakery can be rented out at a rate of $200.00 per 2 hours with groups up to 20 people. Patrons are provided with a menu, but requests can be made ahead of time to suit the needs of any event. While Doce Vida’s atmosphere is fanciful, their services are consistently professional. Find adventure in your backyard and indulge the sweetness that is Doce Vida.