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Roma Bakery co-owner Filomena “Mena” Castriciano walked into a Roma Bakery full of customers on Tuesday. “It looks like Christmas in here,” she said.
The longtime Lansing institution serving freshly baked bread, pastries, deli sandwiches and more will close its doors for good on Sept. 30 with the sale of its building, at 428 N. Cedar St. Castriciano declined to comment on who the building was sold to. Roma Bakery Deli & Fine Foods announced the news via its Facebook page Monday.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve you. We cannot thank you enough for all the years of loyal patronage. It was our dream to have a successful bakery, and we couldn’t have done it without you,” the post said.
Castriciano and her husband, Sostine, both Italian immigrants, opened Roma in 1969. The couple took over Frank Antonio’s Italian Market at Erie and Cedar streets before moving down Cedar in the mid-’70s.
The dish that would give Roma Bakery its early staying power, oddly enough, wasn’t a baked good. It was baccala, or salted cod, which proved popular among Roma’s early Italian, Greek and Iranian customers who sought it with zeal.
Baccala and fresh loaves of Italian bread were some of many goods Roma Bakery popularized in the Lansing area, Castriciano said.
“People came and enjoyed our different food. In those days, nobody knew about — or had — prosciutto in Lansing. The same with mortadella and fresh mozzarella. It was only us.”
Cashier Rose Senko has been part of the Roma Bakery team for two years. “The customers were always happy, and it was a great place to work,” Senko said. “Customers always came in smiling and left smiling, which made working there so much better.”
The deal to sell the building had been in the works for the past five months, Castriciano said. The agreement was signed Thursday, and Roma Bakery has 45 days to vacate the building.
“We wanted it to be Roma Bakery with our recipes, but we couldn’t find anybody to do the work. Now it is just the building.”
Castriciano said she doesn’t know what plans the new owner has for the space.
The bakery started to offer a 30% discount off its goods excluding the deli. The deal will increase and include the deli section closer to closing. Any food left over will be donated.
“It just broke my heart to find out they were closing,” customer Mary Hackett said. A customer for 50 years, Hackett drove to Roma Bakery to get some subs when she found out the news. “We came whenever we got a craving, and today we did,” she said.
Customer Paul Torok first came to Roma Bakery 25 years ago. “I always brought my kids here when we were on the River Trail. I just came in today to get my last dessert, a cannoli,” he said.
Castriciano wants to invite every past customer in to say goodbye. “I’m not going to give out any of my recipes to anyone yet, but we’ll see what happens with a little time,” Castriciano said.
“I would like to go to Italy again,” she said. “I miss my grandkids and daughters. I hope to see them more often.”