Photo: Mark WempleCopeland More (right) chose to leave Franklin Street property management company to work with his father, Anthony, at La Segunda Central Bakery.
Daily Bread: Four generations of pan Cubano
100 years of pan Cubano - from four generations of Mores
In the late 1890s, Juan More left his native Spain for Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War. It’s not clear, though, that he fought for Spain, which owned Cuba at the time. His descendants say it’s possible he switched sides and fought for the U.S., which had instigated the war by intervening in a conflict between Cuban nationalists and their Spanish rulers.
Either way, this much is certain: During More’s time in Cuba, he learned how to bake bread the Cuban way — in long, thin loaves, crusty on the outside, soft inside and, always, with a skinny palm leaf baked right on top.
After the war, More moved to Tampa, where he made a living baking bread for the Cuban and Spanish immigrants who worked in Ybor City’s cigar factories, among the largest in the world at the time. People liked his bread, and in 1915 he opened La Segunda Central Bakery. More than 100 years later, it’s still baking Cuban bread, skinny palm leaf and all.
The bakery is transitioning to the fourth generation of the More family, led by 35-year-old Copeland More. For a time, it appeared that Copeland wouldn’t take up the baker’s trade — his father, Anthony, had discouraged him from working in the family business.
“It’s a tough business,” says Anthony, who still helps run the business. “We’re here basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You get calls 1 o’clock in the morning, 2 o’clock in the morning, 3 o’clock in the morning. It doesn’t matter what time. You get the call when there’s a problem. I wanted him to know what he was getting into.”
Besides, Copeland had options.
One of his college buddies at Miami University in Ohio was Andrew Wright, who later became CEO and managing partner of the Franklin Street property management company in Tampa. Before Franklin Street hit it big, handling multi million-dollar development deals from Tampa to Atlanta, Wright hired Copeland as one of the company’s first employees in Tampa.
“I liked the idea of development, and I understood real estate real well,” Copeland says. “But then my dad’s cousin was ready to retire, and I had this opportunity to become a co-owner. It came totally out of the blue.”
Copeland omits the fact that Anthony needed his help. He hadn’t encouraged Copeland to join the business, but, as he was approaching his early 70s, Anthony needed someone to share the work and make sure the bakery stayed in the family.
Ironically, Anthony had faced the same situation when he was younger. After studying at Florida State University, he had worked as an organic chemist for a while and then taught chemistry in high school and junior college — until his father, Antonio, told him he needed help at the bakery.
“I was actually happy teaching junior college,” Anthony says. “It was nice.”
Wright says Copeland is one of his closest friends, so he wasn’t surprised when Copeland told him that he had to leave Franklin Street.
“I didn’t think there was much of a decision for Copeland to make,” Wright says. “There are not too many people who can say they have a fourth-generation, 100-year-old business that really needs you.”
Since joining his dad five years ago, Copeland has focused on modernizing the bakery’s retail operations and expanding La Segunda’s product line, which includes, aside from Cuban bread, other types of bread, rolls and pastries.
Located on the other side of I-4 from Ybor City’s tourist district, the bakery operates in a nondescript building with 10,000 square feet of industrial baking space. Each day, between 24 and 30 bakers work through the night baking as many as 18,000 loaves of bread, which then get picked up by Sysco, Cheney Bros., US Foods and other food distributors for delivery as far away as Texas and Alaska.
Copeland envisions adding retail locations, where people can buy Cuban sandwiches, guava pastries and coffee. He’s always looking to add wholesale customers — whenever his family eats out and the bread is underwhelming, he makes sure one of his salespeople calls on the restaurant soon after.
“I feel like what I’m bringing is a growth strategy,” Copeland says. “That wasn’t something that they focused on before. I really believe in the brand. I see value in it, and I feel like I can unlock a lot more of that value. I’m proud of this place. I feel good about what we’re doing, and I feel really good about the future.”