Tampa bakery that survived Spanish flu stays open to serve customers during coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Six years after Alessi Bakery opened in 1912, the deadly Spanish flu came to Tampa Bay as it spread around the world.

As small businesses face difficult times during the coronavirus pandemic, the owner of Alessi Bakery told 8 On Your Side he has the same mentality as family members before him that have kept the bakery running for more than 100 years.

“We’ve been through some really tough times,” Phil Alessi Jr. said.

The bakery is still open, even with sales down 80 percent and catering jobs cancelled, Alessi said.

“We’re here to serve,” Alessi said. “But at the same time, we’re here to make sure we’re in compliance.”

The bakery is offering delivery and curb-side pick up. Through FaceTime, Alessi showed 8 On Your Side the chairs flipped up inside.

“Totally closed off as far as nobody sitting in the dining room,” he said.

During the first twenty years in business, the Tampa bakery survived both the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and the Great Depression.

“Very great work ethic and the credibility,” Alessi said. “So I’m sure because of all those things they were able to survive this, and we have the same attitude today.”

Sacrifices have to be made now, Alessi said, to get back to normal and to make sure those more vulnerable to the virus don’t get infected.

As a precaution, he said he hasn’t seen some family in a week.

“My wife having asthma, my son being diabetic, we want to make sure we’re safe,” Alessi said.

Still, Alessi said he is trying to keep a positive attitude at the bakery, whether by selling Tom Brady cookies or a cake shaped like toilet paper.

“Little bit of humor even though this isn’t a humorous thing,” he said. “We’ve got our decorators being a little creative there.”

Alessi told 8 On Your Side he’s not looking to lay off any of his 200 workers at the bakery and manufacturing plant. He said if need be some will work from home.

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