The 106-year-old La Segunda Bakery and Cafe, the world’s largest producer of Cuban bread, opened its doors in St. Petersburg this week and the positive response has been overwhelming – encouraging the owner to bake more growth plans for the region.
The new 1,820-square-foot location at 2436 4th Street focuses on grab-and-go orders, delivery and catering but has indoor seating for its guests.
The design for the St. Pete location is similar to the interior design of the Westshore location in Tampa, which opened in 2018. It features red brick walls to pay homage to Ybor City’s roots, custom-made ironwork accents that are similar to the Spanish and Italian architecture of Tampa’s 7th Avenue, and globe-shaped pendant lighting and mounted lamps throughout the café to give a nod to Ybor City’s architecture.
Copeland More, the fourth-generation owner, plans to have more café throughout Tampa Bay in submarkets such as Brandon and Riverview.
More sat down with St. Pete Catalyst inside the new café to chat about his story of getting into the family business, the new location, and expansion plans, including the ghost kitchen concept.
What has the community response been like since opening in St. Pete? The surprising thing is how nice people are here. Our grand opening was on Monday and I was running food for six hours straight. Everyone kept saying ‘thank you for coming to the community.’ We only had two problems that we fixed.
What are the differences between this location and the others? In Ybor, we don’t have any seats. We wanted seats though, and more space for people to gather with their family and friends, but when we revisited the concept, Covid happened. Most of our sales have been in-store deliveries and takeout from third parties, so that’s why we decided on this space. It’s not as big as our 3,000-square-foot café in South Tampa on Kennedy Boulevard. We decided to condense it down, but still have seats like we intended.
Being a fourth-generation owner, was running the family business ingrained in your upbringing? My dad would actually tell me to not get into this business because it’s non-stop hard work. There was a time in the ’70s when the economy was crazy, and he was rolling bread while his cousin would bake just to survive. He always wanted me to do something else because you are always working – the mixer would break in the middle of the night, they would need more flour or someone wouldn’t show up – it’s a 24/7 job.
How did you take on this role? In 2009, I got into the business because my dad’s cousin was retiring and this was during the same time the market was crashing and I was in real estate. The real estate market was completely dried up. I never intended to be in this business – it just kind of happened.
How did you navigate and plan this expansion during the pandemic? While we scouted this property, I’d go to a lot of different restaurants during the pandemic and you could hear the printers going off, printing the online orders coming in. I talked with people like those at Grain and Berry about this market and we found it is heavy with third-party delivery activities, so it works well for this space. Last year, we partnered with an online website so when someone orders through us, Doordash delivers it and we have a partnership with them, we don’t actually deliver it from them. People can still order directly from our café. As a restaurant owner, you can’t ignore Uber Eats, GrubHub. I remember during the pandemic, we were even selling paper towels at the Tampa location because we had a big supply. During Covid, I knew we needed to be in the grocery market, so I went to Publix’s headquarters in Lakeland with our Cuban bread and dropped it off. I kept going back to get them to taste it and they said it was awesome. We are in 36 stores right now. Things (events affecting the economy) are going to happen. I think about this all the time, my grandfather went through the Great Depression and survived. I’m not too worried about short-term dips. Our recipes and products are successful.
Financially, what were some actions you had to take? In March or April, it’s our busy season for wholesale Cuban bread. When the market dropped due to the pandemic, we didn’t have a wholesale order for two months. Distributors like Gordon Foods and Cisco had inventory in their freezers and they told us to stop production and just like everyone else, they were limiting skews. That was the time we got lucky and received the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funding. We didn’t have those wholesales and if we didn’t have the PPP, we would’ve had to lay off people and the whole business model would have been restructured. We have people who have worked here for 25 to 47 years so it was a great feeling we were able to keep them. If we didn’t need a baker one day, they would clean or do other tasks, and we took some of our master bakers and higher-level staff and gave them a project. Before the pandemic, when I took on this role in 2009, I went to the bank we worked with for 30 years and they denied us lending. They said the environment was iffy and that’s when I reached out to Trey Korhn, vice president at US AmeriBank, at the time, and they understood our business, business and people and made it work.
Dan Stone of Valley Bank has worked with La Segunda for the past 12 years, prior to AmeriBank’s merger with Valley Bank. Stone has helped La Segunda with operating capital, along with funds to open the Kennedy store and the new St. Pete location. Valley also ensured that La Segunda successfully obtained PPP funds in both rounds. Stone formed a relationship with Copeland through his mutual connection with Korhn. Stone’s other restaurant clients include Datz, Dr. BBQ, Domino’s Pizza and others.
What are some new concepts you are evaluating? Some of our managers want to look at a drive-thru concept, but it’s challenging because we press sandwiches for six or seven minutes so that’s a long ticket time. I have talked with real estate brokers about a ghost kitchen concept and finding dark restaurant spaces that have equipment in place that we can use to focus on pick-up and deliveries because we don’t have that option outside of the five-mile radius from our restaurants. Our Kennedy and Ybor locations overlap, but if someone is six miles from Kennedy, that delivery option will not be available.
Has the menu changed for St. Pete? Everything we do is by hand, we make our pastries by hand, we don’t take it from a freezer and stick it in the oven. The space is smaller so we have fewer pastries than what Ybor has. Ybor was actually a full-service bakery before it became a sandwich shop so they have a full array of pastries. Everything else is exactly the same.
What would you recommend as the go-to meal for someone at your restaurant? For breakfast, I’d say try a café con leche and Cuban bread; for lunch, a Cuban sandwich and a guava turnover, which is one of our best sellers.