The year was 1965, Michael Manni was 15 years old, and he got his first job at a local bakery – as a “pan boy.” Now, even if you don’t exactly know what a pan boy is, we’re sure you have an idea that this position is ranked squarely at the bottom of the bakery food chain.
But young Michael was a hard worker and a determined young man. He kept his job at LaSalle through high school, college and his military years, working his way up the ladder and learning the business from the inside out. Mike left college in 1974 with a degree in Art Education and few prospects for a job. Just a year later, Mike’s boss made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Buy the bakery? Owner Jake DeMaria was ready to pass his beloved bakery to just the right person – and that was Mike. The pan boy had grown to love the place. Now, with a new bride named Cheryl by his side, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for them. And so, in 1975, just ten years after Mike picked up his first pan, he and Cheryl were handed the keys – along with a very special gift.
The gift was the love, support, knowledge and wisdom of Jake DeMaria, who stayed on to mentor Mike and Cheryl for ten more years! Mr. DeMaria had bought the bakery in 1935, just five years after it opened. He spent 40 years building LaSalle’s reputation as the best around, and another 10 years guiding Mike and Cheryl. That’s 50 years in the bakery business! “Jake was a very kind, generous man,” remembers Mike, “and he wanted us to be successful. We owe everything to him.”
Things began to move quickly for the new owners. Business grew, and in a few years, they were asked by the landlord if they wanted to buy the building. At that time, the bakery used 2 of the 5 retail spaces, but after the sale, LaSalle occupied all 5, and even expanded the building.
Next was the purchase of 2 adjacent houses. Then the parking lot. Then in 2003, when a bakery just a half-mile away went up for sale, Mike and Cheryl grabbed it, did a complete inside-and-out remodel and moved half of the production there. Which led to an expansion and remodel of the original bakery!
Today, the story of LaSalle Bakery continues to be written. If these walls could talk. They would tell of all the wonderful souls who have switched on the lights in the still-dark hours of the morning to begin mixing the dough. All the emergencies and the dropped pies! All the cupcakes we’ve handed to the children and grandchildren of customers who came to LaSalle when they were small. The years of toil, made sweeter by loyalty, camaraderie and friendships. The tough decisions, the milestones and the faith to keep going. And most of all, the proof that dreams can come true, even for a pan boy and his wife.