John Anthony Orlando has flour in his blood, and maybe some Italian breadcrumbs as well. When he was 5 years old, he’d hang out with his cousins at the neighborhood bakery, which served double duty as a daycare center while their moms ran errands. By the time he turned 12, his first official job involved working on an assembly line, tying dough into knots for dinner rolls.
“I worked with a bunch of ladies who only spoke Italian, and I didn’t,” recalled Mr. Orlando, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland-based bakery. “The only thing I understood was, ‘Faster. Faster. Tie them faster.’ ”
Mr. Orlando is part of the fifth generation to oversee the company along with Nick Orlando Jr., vice president of sales and marketing; Daniel Vincent Holan, chief administration officer; Chris Orlando, vice president of national sales; and John C. Orlando Jr., chief operating officer/general counsel. It’s one of the oldest continuously run family-owned baking businesses in the nation.
In fact, the company is currently celebrating its 150th anniversary since Guistino Orlando, the great-great-grandfather of the current management team, founded the bakery in Castel de Sangro, Italy, in 1872. In 1904, his sons moved to Cleveland becoming a regional institution serving the city and Northeast Ohio.
The bakery moved to its current wholesale bakery location in 1979 when the fourth generation consisting of Chet (Sonny) Orlando, John C. Orlando Sr. and the late Nick Orlando Sr., laid the foundation for the current company’s business model serving retailers and foodservice chains across the nation.
Over the years, the specialty bakery has expanded its production facility several times, installing new equipment that was featured at bakery shows like the International Baking Industry Exposition, which will be held Sept. 17-21, in Las Vegas.
Today, Orlando Baking is perhaps best known for bringing classic Italian ciabatta bread to America in the late 1980s. However, its diverse product portfolio ranges from traditionally made European-style breads made with Old World biga to frozen commercial garlic bread and whatever signature products that its foodservice customers can dream up. Call the company nouveau traditional.
Along with an inventive past, Mr. Orlando noted an enduring passion for making quality baked goods has allowed the family bakery to pass the test of time.
“Throughout the generations, everyone has grown up in the business,” he explained. “When you’re a kid, you worked in the business. That’s one of the reasons we’ve lasted so long. We have a lot of pride in what we do, and we feel we make great bread. It’s part of our family’s roots.”
To honor its heritage, Orlando Baking has pulled photos out of the vaults and created special merchandising displays for its sesquicentennial anniversary, and the number 150 takes obvious prominence in almost all its promotions.
Each month during the summer, the bakery offers $1.50 off a select retail bakery product. The company is also running the Great American Sandwich contest in its Ohio fresh delivery market. Consumers are being asked to submit their best recipes for multiple sandwich categories. The grand prize winner receives $1,500 while the runner ups get $150 each.
Additionally, Orlando Baking is creating celebratory videos with its local restaurant and national customers, which will be shared on social media and other platforms.
Reflecting on the bakery’s history, Mr. Orlando can’t help but get nostalgic about how far the business has come over the years since his great-great-grandfather distributed bread via horse and buggy.
“I don’t think anybody envisioned us selling nationally, and the opportunities for where we can go are still really big,” he said. “If you look back before my father and uncles ran the business, the family was just happy selling bread in Cleveland. Now we’re looking where we can take the company for the next 150 years.”
For a successful family-owned company, honoring tradition with respect is the key to maintaining bakery bloodlines.