Paul Ciocca is overwhelmed.
He and his brother Michael have decided to retire at the end of next month after their family has owned Main Street mainstay Eddy’s Bake Shop for 53 years.
The brothers revealed their decision Saturday on Facebook after weeks of rumors circulating throughout the city. There’s been an outpouring of gratitude and well wishes from the community since.
The post Saturday announcing the Cioccas’ retirement had more than 1,000 reactions and nearly 500 comments from loyal customers and former employees.
“After more than 50 years of proudly serving or community at Eddy’s Bake Shop, Paul and Michael have decided to retire,” it said. “It’s time for family, new adventures, and sleeping past 1:00 AM!”
Click the post below to read some of the reaction.
“All the beautiful comments, it’s nice to hear, believe me,” Ciocca said Monday during an interview at the business. “You don’t realize until you start seeing it. My wife started crying when she was reading them.”
The brothers are in talks to sell the business to a buyer who Ciocca says wants to keep the shop on Main Street.
Ciocca said they’re trying to hammer out the details.
“Stay tuned,” he said.
Paul and Michael learned the trade from their father, Americo Ciocca, an Italian immigrant from the Naples area who acquired the business after being a partner in another baking business.
The family are the third owners of the business, after its namesake, Eddy Tomas, and Joe Weber, from whom Americo bought it.
Bakers get up early.
“My brother gets here at 2 in the morning and I get here at 4,” Ciocca said. “In the morning we’re mostly make bread and pastries, then cakes later in the afternoon.”
Though Ciocca said he and Michael will be happy to have more free time, they’ll also miss dealing with customers and fellow business owners.
In March the building where the business was located — which was owned by several of the tenants, including Eddy’s — was sold, which Paul said gave him and his brother the opportunity to take stock and decide to retire.
“We enjoy being here, we enjoy doing what we’re doing, we enjoy being a part of the Main street community. We’ve made many friends,” he said. “Everybody pulls for everybody.”
The business has remained successful even as the economic environment in the city has been in flux — repeatedly.
“It went up and it went down and it went up and it went down. We’ve seen it all,” Ciocca said. “When we first came here, you’ve got to remember, it was all industry. Farrel’s was booming. There were people walking the streets. There were a lot of people actually working down here. Now it’s more of a destination area, with people coming in.”
Trends in customer demand have changed, too.
“Our business has changed a lot, and we’ve changed with what’s going on,” Ciocca said. “We’re doing a lot of specialty cakes now, a lot of weddings. The trend is less bread. We still sell a lot of bread, but not as much as we used to sell because people are staying away from that now.”
Even so, he said, the bakery’s rye bread has attracted a loyal fan base over the years, as evidenced by comments on the business’ Facebook page.
“We’re really known for our rye bread,” Ciocca said. “We still make it the old-fashioned way, that’s why. We make it sour. It takes three hours for that sour to come up, it rises. It’s rye flour, water, and yeast, it gets sour, and that’s what we throw into the rye. It’s not a flavor. We make it the original way that we’ve been making it for 50 years.”
“We want to thank all our customers for being loyal to us all these years,” Ciocca said. “With all the competition they still came to us, and we appreciate that.”
In addition to customers, many of Eddy’s former employees posted memories on the business’ Facebook page.
Ciocca said Eddy’s has served as a first job to “hundreds.”
“The kids come in in high school,” he said. “Some of them commute to college and they’re still here. We’re lucky. We’re blessed that way.”
Two employees at the business Monday afternoon — Sarah Eye, a five-year employee of the business, and Rebekah Pimenta, who has worked there two years — said working there is like having a second family.
“I worked afternoons here after high school,” Pimenta said.
“Sixteen, first job,” Eye said. “I’ve worked other jobs too but we always come back.”
Loyal customers include Mayor David Cassetti, who described Eddy’s Monday simply as “an institution.”
The mayor said he’s been patronizing the shop for years, back to the time he was a young boy.
“I go there very often and get my rye bread. I remember all the birthday cakes came from Eddy’s from when I was a kid,” Cassetti said. “As far back to when I was just a 5-, 6-year-old kid.”
Perhaps the most important ceremonial duty the Ansonia mayor performs is serving as timekeeper during the business’ annual Fat Tuesday Paczki-eating contest, which has broadened the bakery’s appeal to outside the Valley.
He said he hopes a deal can be worked out to have the business continue under new ownership.
“Somebody’s got to take over. We need a bakery in Ansonia,” the mayor said.
Ciocca hopes so, too. He said he and his family may still be a presence at the business if it lives on under new ownership.
“We’re willing to help,” he said. “I’ll help as much as I can. We want Eddy’s to live on. Eddy’s has got to be here 75 years.”