“Edibles & Potables” is Food & Dining Magazine’s space on Sunday for ranging beyond our usual Louisville metro coverage area.
Today our daily Cuban bread is baked in Tampa by a family-owned bakery, but the existential challenges currently faced by El Segunda are by no means unique to Florida. I’m reminded of John Donne’s words: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
The story begins in 1915.
The history of La Segunda Central Bakery started with a soldier’s personal vision in the late 19th Century. Out of war came Juan Moré’s love for the taste of authentic Cuban bread. He was born in the Catalan region of Spain and fought in the Spanish-American War in Cuba. There he discovered a traditional recipe for Cuban bread, the adventure of a new country, and a new opportunity. Recipe in hand, he set forth to create the bakery of his dreams in the thriving Cuban district of Ybor City, Florida.
Around the start of World War I, Moré joined a co-op of fellow bakers and cigar makers to open three bakeries: La Primera, La Segunda and La Tercera in Ybor City. When the other two bakeries folded, Juan purchased La Segunda Central Bakery from his partners, which stands today as one of Ybor’s coveted landmark buildings representing the Cuban-American era.
Juan’s attention to his recipes, his people and customers is reflected today, with locals stopping in for their daily café con leche and Cuban toast all while trucks depart to deliver the crusty Cuban bread to restaurants and markets around the country.
The litany of woes is familiar, and it would be redundant to list them yet again apart from a reminder that they’re universal. Percentages vary, but Louisville is Tampa. The individual components of the food and drink business here are fighting through the same issues as the ones in Tampa and everywhere else in the country.
I’ve read the essay and reflected. Answers? They’re far more difficult. Be reminded that there is no pay wall at The Guardian. Our cover photo credit goes to El Segunda.
How a century-old bakery is weathering inflation in the US’s worst hit city, by Michael Adno in Tampa with photographs by Zack Wittman (The Guardian)
For 106 years, La Segunda has baked bread in Ybor City, a neighborhood in Tampa, Florida. It’s a Cuban bakery where the loaves are scored with palmetto fronds and reach 36” in custom ovens. Between the longstanding traditions and myths that shape the place, the owners that span four generations have never seen prices rise as they have in the past year.
Across America, inflation affected the food industry acutely, and in the case of La Segunda, the cost of wheat doubling in just 12 months left a bruise. “That’s 30% to 40% of our manufacturing,” said Copeland More, a partner alongside his father in the business.
The jump in cost added nearly $40,000 to overhead each month, and it left More to navigate just how to raise prices, retain customers, and keep the 140 employees across three bakeries above water.
In Tampa, the cost of living rose at a rate in the past year that dwarfed the rest of the United States, by more than 3%. For Daniel Mitchell, who started working at La Segunda just six months ago as a technician, he felt the pressure.