'I wanted to find someone who would keep the tradition going': How La Segunda took over Seminole Heights' Faedo Family Bakery

Michelle Faedo and Copeland More of La Segunda talk about the recent acquisition, authentic Cuban bread and more.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KYLA FIELDS
Photo by Kyla Fields
Although the infectious smell of fresh Cuban bread will still waft throughout Seminole Heights at any given time of day, Faedo Family Bakery’s neon “Hot Bread Now” sign no longer lights up the windows at 5105 N Florida Ave.

On April 26, the Faedo family officially sold their bakery to the Moré family of of La Segunda. By April 27,  La Segunda’s Cuban bread was being baked in Faedo’s former ovens.

“Located in Seminole Heights the Faedo family has been (and still is!) a staple in the Cuban bread community. As a fellow born and bread' multigenerational family, we are honored to carry on the tradition as well as extend our business in Seminole Heights,” La Segunda’s announcement reads.

Including its recently-opened cafe and bakery in St. Petersburg, 107 year-old La Segunda now has four locations throughout Tampa Bay.

Although the transition might have taken Faedo’s loyal customers by surprise, Michelle Faedo Landis—daughter of original owner, 86 year-old Mauricio Faedo—tells Creative Loafing Bay that the deal had been in the works for upwards of two years.

Michelle—not to be confused with her cousin who operates Michelle Faedo's Tampeño Cuisine—and another family member took over operations in 2017 when her father decided to retire after five decades in the business. She then changed the name from Mauricio Faedo’s Bakery to Faedo Family Bakery.

Michelle cites recent labor shortages and the struggle to balance the bakery and family time as the main reasons why she had to let go of her father’s legacy, although she says that the entire process has been incredibly bittersweet for her.

“I would have loved to continue running the family bakery to keep our traditions alive, but it was just taking too much of a toll on all of us, '' she says. “La Segunda has actually been approaching us for years about acquiring the space, and it finally felt like the right time to go through with it.”

Michelle ran the front counter and managerial operations for almost five years, alongside her brother who baked and her sons and nephews that delivered Faedo bread throughout Tampa. Since its humble beginning in the 1980s, their bakery has always been a family affair.

Besides the iconic “Hot Bread Now” sign displayed in the window, the Seminole Heights bakery was best known for three things: being open 24-hours a day (six-and-a-half days a week ) its cheap prices ( $1 for a small Cuban bread and $2.50 for the longer loaf) and it's open floor plan, where guests could ogle at bakers pounding and shaping large mounds of dough around the clock.

Employees said even former President Barack Obama tried the Faedo family specialty.

In addition to fresh Cuban bread baked almost 24 hours a day, Faedo also sold doughnuts, apple fritters, and guava and cheese pastries alongside other sweet treats. But the bread was always the star.

“My dad originally learned how to make Cuban bread from my grandfather’s brother—my great uncle—who owned Joe Faedo’s Pastry Shop,” she says. “And then he went on to bake at La Segunda from 1963-1984— right up until he opened his own bakery.”

Joe Faedo, Mauricio’s uncle, opened his bakery on Armenia Avenue in 1952, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It was a popular joint for cheap Cuban breakfast, as well as a gathering place for local politicians.

“Her father used to work for my grandfather,” La Segunda’s fourth generation president Copeland Moré said about Michelle Faedo. “I think he actually helped build one of our ovens in Ybor back in the day. If you look at the bricks on that oven, you can still see his initials carved into it.”

During Faedo’s hasty closure, almost the entire staff became La Segunda employees overnight. The longest bakers have been at Faedo for over 20 years, and it was a priority for both families to make sure that they were as comfortable as possible during the transition.

As both Michelle Faedo and Moré explain, finding people willing to enter—and stick with— the Cuban bread trade is difficult. Post-pandemic, Michelle struggled to find employees willing to work the graveyard shift, noting that the bakery had to shift to more normal hours during its last few months in operation.

“To be a baker here— it’s not an easy thing. It’s a trade that not everyone can do. A lot of our bakers have been here for decades,” Michelle says.

“These people are on their feet all day, working overnight shifts, it's hot and you have to work with your hands— a skill set that's being lost in America in general, I think,” Moré told CL. “It’s truly a craft that’s not easily picked up by anyone.”

La Segunda veteran bakers call it “having the blood” to enter the Cuban bread world. Made with very little equipment, simple ingredients, and techniques from the past, making authentic Cuban bread is no simple task.

The mark of any true Cuban bread is the single palm leaf tucked about an inch deep on top of the dough, which creates the signature split down the center of the loaf.

Michelle tells CL that both La Segunda and Faedo Family Bakery use the same ingredients to make their iconic breads, with slightly different measurements and methods. With the closure of her family’s bakery, she states that there are only two businesses in town that pump out authentic Cuban bread: La Segunda and Casino Bakery, which resides on the outskirts of Ybor City.

And although the process of selling her family’s namesake was incredibly bittersweet for her, she’s happy that La Segunda is continuing the tradition. “Even though it's technically one of our competitors, I have the peace of mind that at least it's a similar concept to our bakery.”

For now, La Segunda’s new Florida Avenue location will stick to selling fresh bread and pastries, but Moré tells CL that it absolutely has the potential to evolve into a full-scale cafe, due to the bakery’s high foot traffic.

But first and foremost, its newest location will be a production facility for Cuban bread.

“We’re dealing with an increased demand and growth outside of the city. It's great to see Cuban bread, a true Tampa staple, become more accessible to folks throughout the country,” Moré says.

La Segunda bread can now be found at 35 different Publix locations throughout Tampa Bay—a huge uptick in demand for the 107 year-old company—which is why the acquisition of another production facility was absolutely necessary. Much like the bakers at Faedo, La Segunda’s employees pump out Cuban bread almost 24 hours a day.

“It looks like we're moving fast right now, but these things have been in the works for a long time," Moré says. “I don't see much more expansion in the near future, because we really want to focus on our new stores in St. Pete and Seminole Heights.''

The large Faedo Family Bakery sign is still up on the building, marking the last step in La Segunda’s acquisition of the business. More says that new signage is on its way, and will say “La Segunda Seminole Heights,” instead of the expected “La Segunda Bakery & Cafe.”

Although the transition has been poignant for Michelle and the rest of the Faedos, operations at 5105 N Florida Ave. still remain as much of a family affair as they did before. “We’ve always gotten along and there was always enough business to go around, so there were never any hard feelings or anything between the two families,” she tells CL.

“I just didn't want to sell it to whoever either. I wanted to find someone who would keep the tradition going. I didn't want the space turned into apartments—although I know that’s a little selfish of me,” Michelle says with a laugh.

And with the increase of apartments and commercial development replacing historical businesses in Tampa and beyond, it’s  truly refreshing to see the Seminole Heights bakery keeping tradition alive—one loaf of hand-rolled,  palm-indented Cuban bread at a time.
____________________________________________________________________________________________
UPDATED on 6/11/2022 11 a.m.  Emphasized the difference between Michelle Faedo Landis—daughter of Mauricio Faedo—and Michelle Faedo of Michelle Faedo's Tampeño Cuisine. The two are cousins, but their businesses have always remained separate.

About The Author

Scroll to read more Food News articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]