Although the infectious smell of fresh Cuban bread still wafts through Seminole Heights at all times of the day, Faedo Family Bakery’s “Hot Bread Now” neon 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 from La Segunda. On April 27, La Segunda’s Cuban bread was baked in Faedo’s old ovens.
“Located in Seminole Heights, the Faedo family was (and still is!) a fixture in the Cuban bread community. As a multi-generational family of birth and bread, we are honored to continue the tradition and expand our operations in Seminole Heights,” the La Segunda announcement read.
Including its recently opened cafe and bakery in St. Petersburg, 107-year-old La Segunda now has four locations in Tampa Bay.
Although the transition may have come as a surprise to loyal Faedo customers, Michelle Faedo, the daughter of original owner Mauricio Faedo, 86, told Creative Loafing Bay that the deal has been in the works for more than two years.
Michelle 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 baking and family time as the main reasons she had to let go of her father’s legacy, though she says the whole process was incredibly bittersweet for her.
“I would have liked to continue to run the family bakery to keep our traditions alive, but it weighed too much on all of us,” she says. “La Segunda have been contacting us for years to acquire the space, and it was finally the right time to do it.”
Michelle ran the counter and management operations for nearly five years, alongside her brother who cooked and her sons and nephews who delivered Faedo bread throughout Tampa. From humble beginnings 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 its open floor plan, where guests could ogle bakers beating and shaping tall mounds of dough around the clock.
Employees said even former President Barack Obama had tried the Faedo family specialty.
In addition to fresh Cuban bread baked almost around the clock, Faedo also sold donuts, apple fritters, and guava and cheese pastries, as well as other goodies. But bread has always been the star.
“My dad learned to make Cuban bread originally from my grandfather’s brother — my great-uncle — who owned Joe Faedo Patisserie,” she says. “And then he continued to bake at La Segunda from 1963 to 1984, until he opened his own bakery.”
Joe Faedo, Mauricio’s uncle, opened his bakery on Armenia Avenue in 1952, according to the Tampa Bay Weather. It was a popular joint for cheap Cuban breakfast, as well as a gathering place for local politicians.
“His father worked for my grandfather,” fourth-generation La Segunda president Copeland Moré said of Michelle Faedo. “I think he actually helped build one of our ovens in Ybor at the time. If you look at the bricks of this oven, you can still see his initials engraved on them.
During the hasty closure of Faedo, almost all the staff became La Segunda employees overnight. The oldest bakers have been at Faedo for over 20 years, and it was a priority for both families to make sure they were as comfortable as possible during the transition.
As Michelle Faedo and Moré explain, it is difficult to find people willing to enter and stay in the Cuban bread business. After the pandemic, Michelle struggled to find employees willing to work the cemetery shift, noting that the bakery had to move to more normal hours in its final months of operation.
“Being a baker here is not easy. It’s a job that not everyone knows how to do. Many of our bakers have been here for decades,” says Michelle.
“These people are up all day, working at night, it’s hot, and you have to work with your hands — a skill set that’s getting lost in America in general, I think,” Moré told CL. “It really is a profession that is not easily taken up by just anyone.”
La Segunda’s veteran bakers call it “having the blood” to enter the world of Cuban bread. Made with very little equipment, simple ingredients, and techniques from the past, making authentic Cuban bread is no simple task.
The hallmark of all true Cuban bread is the single palm leaf inserted about an inch deep into the top of the dough, which creates the signature split in the center of the bread.
Michelle tells CL that La Segunda and Faedo Family Bakery use the same ingredients to make their signature breads, with slightly different measurements and methods. With her family’s bakery closing, she says there are only two businesses in town that make authentic Cuban bread: La Segunda and Casino Bakery, which resides on the outskirts of Ybor City.
And while the process of selling her family’s namesake has been incredibly bittersweet for her, she’s glad La Segunda is carrying on the tradition. “Even though it is technically one of our competitors, I am sure it is at least similar in concept to our bakery.”
For now, La Segunda’s new location on Florida Avenue will stick to selling fresh bread and pastries, but Moré tells CL that it absolutely has the potential to become a full-scale cafe, due from the bakery’s high foot traffic.
But above all, its new location will be a Cuban bread production plant.
“We are facing increased demand and growth outside of the city. It’s great to see Cuban bread, a true Tampa staple, becoming more accessible to people across the country,” says Moré.
La Segunda bread can now be found at 35 different Publix locations across Tampa Bay — a huge increase in demand for the 107-year-old company — which is why the acquisition of another production facility was badly needed. Like Faedo’s bakers, La Segunda employees bake Cuban bread almost around the clock.
“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, as we really want to focus on our new stores in St. Pete and Seminole Heights.”
The large Faedo Family Bakery sign is still in place on the building, marking the final stage of the company’s acquisition by La Segunda. More says new signage is on the way and will say “La Segunda Seminole Heights,” instead of “La Segunda Bakery & Cafe.”
Although the transition was poignant for Michelle and the rest of the Faedos, operations at 5105 N Florida Ave. remain as much a family affair as before. “We always got on well and there was always enough stuff for everyone, so there was never any hard feelings or anything between the two families,” she told CL .
“I also didn’t want to sell it to anyone. I wanted to find someone who would carry on the tradition. I didn’t want the space to be turned into apartments, although I know that’s a bit selfish of me,” Michelle laughs.
And with more apartments and commercial development replacing historic businesses in Tampa and beyond, it’s truly refreshing to see the Seminole Heights Bakery carry on the tradition – a hand-rolled loaf of Cuban bread a la time.