Alpha Baking Co. rolls
 Alpha Baking Co. operates six bakeries and produces more than 2,000 s.k.u.s.

Forty years ago, Mike and Larry Marcucci teamed up and went out on their own. The cousins began their journey purchasing a Detroit bakery that had hit financial difficulties. Initially, they hoped to transform the fresh-baked operation into a frozen dough business, a burgeoning category at the time. However, as is often the case, things just didn’t go according to plan.

“If you go to Wikipedia and look up the phrase, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know,’ there’s probably a picture of Mike and me in our 20s,” Larry joked.

Today, Larry, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Alpha Baking Co., and Mike, chairman, have built one of baking’s most respected businesses. It operates six bakeries and employs 1,800 people. The bakeries produce more than 2,000 s.k.u.s, mainly for food service but also for retail and in-store bakeries.

“We are a customer-focused bakery,” Larry said. “Yeah, a lot of people say that, but we live and die by the needs of the customers.”

Certainly Alpha faced its share of growing pains, surviving the astronomical interest rates of the 1980s during its formative years. Alpha’s biggest milestones include purchasing National Baking of Chicago, its biggest competitor as it was growing up, and receiving numerous supplier-of-the-year awards from its customers.

“As a customer-focused company, that’s what we’re shooting for,” Larry said. “It’s nice to be recognized that you put forth the effort and people appreciate it.”

The cousins should also be recognized for their involvement with industry associations. Having surrounded themselves with a solid management team, their next priority is to make Alpha — as well as the baking industry — stronger in the foreseeable future. Congratulations, Mike and Larry, on four decades of remarkable and rewarding business success.