Member Profile – Happy Tiers Bakery
November 15, 2022 | Kayla Anderson
Incline Village’s newest café, Happy Tiers, is finally up and running after overcoming various forms of adversity. Its brick-and-mortar location in the Christmas Tree Village serves up delectable cinnamon rolls, quiches, coffee, slices of cake, Doughboys doughnuts, and more every day of the week.
Its owners Jason and Andrea Jurss are passionate when talking about their journey from whipping up cake batter in their kitchen to finally opening a physical café, that just continues to get better and better.
“During covid we had 86 weddings cancel on us; it nearly killed the business because we gave all those deposits back since we knew that was the right thing to do,” Jason says.
In March of 2020, Happy Tiers realized that they had to pivot quickly to stay afloat, and Andrea started making breakfast items and creative desserts like hot chocolate bombs to sell online and to her regular customers.
“The idea to open a café came about at the start of the pandemic. I laid in bed and thought, no one’s working, there’s no cakes to make, there’s nothing to do. So, Jason said, ‘go make those breakfast items you like’. I did these breakfast packs for local clients for Christmas and Thanksgiving and Jason delivered them,” Andrea says.
However, Andrea knew her clients so well that telling Jason where to go was a little bit of a humorous challenge. “Jason would be delivering, and he’d say, ‘Where do I go?’ and I’d reply, ‘Go down Donna and find that brown door second from the left with the wreath on it’ because I didn’t know anyone’s addresses,” she smiles.
Jason explains that Andrea would do these big pan quiches that feed a dozen people, then smaller groups who were here for a brief time requested personal ones that could go in a microwave or oven, ideal for vacation rentals. At the mention of it, Jason grabs a personal-sized crustless quiche for breakfast, the eggs fluffy and perfect, filled with slices of bell pepper and perhaps other veggies. Happy Tiers café also recently started serving crustless, gluten free and dairy free desserts and snacks.
The process of getting a café open in Incline Village took the Jurss’s to their limits, though, despite the experience they had in running successful businesses in Florida where Jason is from.
Both being from the East Coast, the couple met in 2010, the same year that Andrea’s parents Patrick and Patricia moved to Incline Village. Patrick (Andrea’s dad) had been coming to Lake Tahoe every winter since he was 16 to take a ski vacation. They spent their winters in Florida, which is where Andrea met Jason. Then when Andrea’s grandparents passed away, Pat and Pat decided to pick up and move Incline. Andrea followed her parents and moved to Incline with her kids in 2011, while keeping a long-distance relationship with Jason.
In 2015, Andrea started making cakes for friends out of her home kitchen and word quickly spread about the quality, creativeness, and delicious concoctions that she made for the North Lake Tahoe community. She formed a solid relationship with the Chateau, who often refers their customers to Happy Tiers in their event planning process. Then in 2017, Andrea moved to Florida to be with Jason and design a high-end dessert menu for Jason’s restaurant called Artisan. However, she kept getting calls from clients in the Lake Tahoe area wanting her to do their cakes. It was a different clientele out there in the Sunshine State, and Jason saw more of an opportunity for growth in Incline Village.
“When people flew Andrea out here to do their weddings (she did two at the Chateau while she was living in Florida), that opened my eyes to the possibility here,” Jason says.
The couple moved back here in late 2018, Jason’s own dad and brother eventually following.
“They all gravitate to us; we’re the nucleus of the family,” Andrea smiles. And grandparents on both sides love being closer to their grandkids who are in middle school and high school here.
They planned to do winters in Florida and summers here for both businesses (Happy Tiers and Artisan) but then the pandemic hit.
“I built nine multimillion-dollar concepts from the ground up. Andrea was going to do cakes and our goal was to wholesale. We were doing all the desserts for Granlibakken and local restaurants. Then covid stopped us in our tracks and we realized that we needed a direct-to-consumer concept,” Jason says.
They found a spot to open a physical café in Christmas Tree Village, signed the lease in spring of 2022, built out the space, hired staff, and did a soft opening in April, and then it all came to a grinding halt. They were forced to shut their doors on June 10th. They were closed for the next 70 days, believing that they probably lost $3,000 in revenue per day that they could’ve made over the summer.
“We were within eight days of closing for good and moving back to Florida, because everything we owned was invested in this business,” the couple says.
Jason explains that here they were paying rent, but various county and local government entities were telling them different things about what they needed to be properly permitted, causing them to throw money against the wall while trying to appease them. During the process of trying to get reopened, Happy Tiers lost seven baristas, four bakers, and two dishwashers that the Jurss’s had hired and trained.
“It’s like what Winston Churchill said, ‘If you don’t take change by the hand then it will take you by the throat.’ And Incline was taking us by the throat,” Jason says.
However, the couple is not the type to give up, and fortunately with weddings and events coming back on the scene, their clients and community saved them.
“There was no telling me I was closing the business; I worked too hard to build it,” Jason says, crediting Andrea for being the driving force and talent while he is more of the behind-the-scenes operations manager. The couple saved money for payroll, bought a new oven, rehired staff, and is now fully open once again providing products at every price point from $1.50 biscotti to $4,000 wedding cakes.
Jason says they are now focused on what is in the café’s four walls, building out their wedding design studio, putting art up on the walls, and working on their menus. They would also like to convert a corner of the café into an ice cream parlor and call it Happy Cones.
“My parents [Pat and Pat], the community, and our VIPs helped this business tremendously,” Andrea says.
“Incline’s our home, this is where we’ll live and retire. Andrea’s parents live here, my family moved here from Florida. It’s a relief that we’re open, and optimistic for the future,” Jason says.
Happy Tiers Café is hosting its official grand opening party and first annual “Black Pie day” (a play off Black Friday a week before Thanksgiving) on November 17th. From 7:30am – noon get $6 off every pie! Happy Tiers is also offering open enrollment for its VIP program from Black Pie day up until the holidays.
Visit https://www.happytiersbakery.com/ for more information or visit Happy Tiers in person at the Christmas Tree Village.