- Reporters Desk
By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Writer
The Di Carlo Bakery meant a lot to the community of San Pedro. It provided a main part of many of the town’s different cultures’ meals and fresh bread for an affordable price — something this hard-working town could appreciate.
District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino wants to commemorate the bakery for what it meant and did for the community. It provided employment with great benefits. It provided a place for the people of San Pedro to come and buy fresh food for a good price. For years, you could get a whiff of the fresh loaves of bread being baked as you drove by the bakery every morning.
The friendliness of the employees made the store a big part of San Pedro. Most employees were lifers. They were offered good wages, pensions and were treated well. Keeping the employees happy meant the customers remained that way as well.
“I came to San Pedro in 1977,” San Pedro resident Ed Lamar said. “A neighbor always had the best baked goods. She told me to try the Di Carlo Bakery day-old racks. At Di Carlo’s, I got friendly service and baked goods at a bargain price. Moreover, the Di Carlo baked goods were fresher than those at the grocery stores.”
To display its gratitude, on Dec. 10, 2014, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a motion to rename the intersection of North Gaffey Street and Capitol Drive in San Pedro to Di Carlo Square.
Buscaino also ordered the Department of Transportation to erect a statue on the intersection in commemoration of Di Carlo Bakery, which closed in 2004.
May 14, 2004 marked the day the final loaf of bread came out of an oven with the beautiful aroma that could be smelled from streets away.
The bakery opened in 1906, running out of Lorenzo Di Carlo’s back room on 11th and Mesa Streets. The business moved twice. It moved once to the 300th block of 11th Street, then to Ninth Street and Pacific Avenue.
When business expanded overwhelmingly, Di Carlo made a more permanent move to its final 10-acre site on North Gaffey Street. But then, a year later, the bakery was sold to Continental Bakery Co.
Di Carlo’s grandson, Larry Di Carlo, stayed on board until 1985, when it was subsequently sold to Interstate Bakery Co. Then, about two decades later, Interstate shut down and sold the factory, inevitably finding itself in bankruptcy.
The 184 employees were to be placed at different factories owned by Interstate, but most of them decided not to make the move and take the bountiful retirement pension that Di Carlo provided, instead.
“My grandpa used to work as a mixer at the Di Carlo Bakery,” said 50-year San Pedro resident Edward Marshall. “My mom worked in the retail portion and she would bring us back all sorts of different chocolate pies.
“The loaves were delicious. One loaf would feed a family of five hungry children, the wheat loaf with the honey. They were big. It was only $1.29, the day olds. In my opinion they were better [than the loaves made on the same day].”
The move from Continental Co. to Interstate Bakery Co. marked the end of Di Carlo. Interstate, a big corporation that also owns Wonder Bread and Hostess, which are the most popular of many other baked goods companies they’ve owned, wasn’t interested in the bakery and what it meant to the community. It was only interested in profits and gains.
James R. Elsesser, the Interstate Bakery Co. CEO which now goes by the name Hostess Brand Inc., said the factory was closed so that the company could consolidate operations and make production more efficient.
“The Di Carlo bakery, which was created [at the Gaffey Street and Capitol Drive. location] in 1957, is not as efficient as our other facilities,” Elsesser said in an www.just-food.com news article written in March 2014. “As a result, we concluded that economically it was best for the company to close the facility.”
Inevitably, the 10-acre property with a Little League baseball field in the corner was auctioned off to Target for $17.8 million. Target opened a megastore in its place in 2009.
Its closing also marked the end of the 3-acre Eastview Little League baseball field, in the corner of the property that had been such a significant part of the town as well.
Residents were a bit excited to see a Target being opened locally, but the fact that the baseball field was going to have to go seemed to transcend their eagerness. They didn’t want to see it go.