Louis Sarcone passed away at the age of 83. His kin recently reflected on the legacy of Louis and his wholesome business model.
As children in the bakery, Louis Sarcone, Jr., and his sister, Linda, remember dozing off on flour bags before daybreak.
Warmth from brick ovens and scents of raw dough made it strenuous to stay awake, but as years have passed, the siblings say peering at their father through tired eyes, they were unknowingly inheriting his approach to resolve — and recipes.
On July 3, the patriarch of Sarcone’s Bakery, Louis Edmond Sarcone, passed away at the age of 83. Louis Sarcone, the third generation of the Sarcone lineage, lived to see the South Philly institution’s century-old milestone, as the tiny Italian bakery nestled on 9th Street was established in 1918 by his grandfather, Luigi.
“The only thing that has changed since is the people making it … the ingredients are the same, just the hands are different,” Louis Sarcone, Jr. said.
Ten decades later, the business, still at the same location, still using those same ingredients, has not seemingly altered — a happening that didn’t unfold by chance but rather something strived toward by Louis Sarcone, his father and even his father.
“They weren’t there to teach me,” Louis Sarcone, Jr. said. “They were there to show me.… Not going off track, so something wouldn’t get lost in translation of moving to the next generation. I was learning from what they did.”
Despite a natural knack for bread, Louis Sarcone did not initially intend on working at the bakery full-time, as the student of Southeast Catholic, now Saints Neumann and Goretti Catholic High School, earned a football scholarship to Villanova University. But, as his father, Peter Sarcone, grew ill, Louis, just 18-years-old, dedicated his life to the bakery.
Around this time, he met his wife, who he’d come to marry for 60 years, at the Southeast Catholic’s Turkey Trot dance. The couple, who fell in love as Louis was restrained from the dance floor that night due to a broken leg, would have two children — Louis Jr. and Linda.
By the mid 1970s, Louis took over the business, pouring his heart and soul into the bakery, as his children recall him working seven days a week for 12 hours a day.
“It became second nature to all of us … it was something for us to do as little kids,” Louis Sarcone, Jr. said. “But, little did we know, we were learning the business. We were shadowing our father.”
“He was just a hard-working guy … and he never yelled,” Linda added. “He’d just give you a look. He was very diplomatic and smart. Everyone loved him.”
Over the years, their father brought much to the business table, especially conserving the old-world receipe his grandfather carried across the ocean from Italy.
In recent decades, though, amid the evolution of modern-day business models, the bakery has faced pressure to franchise, as they’ve lost ties with some business clients whose demand could not comply with the Sarcone’s cornerstone — quality over quantity.
Along with retaining just one location, the family says they refuses to introduce preservatives into their process, as all bread sitting on store shelves any given day was baked early that morning.
“The only way for us to keep up with everyone, especially some of the places that are open 24 hours, is to put preservatives in that bread,” said Louis Sarcone III, the grandson of Louis Sarcone and son of Louis Sarcone, Jr. “Obviously, that would make us grow, but we refuse to do it, because that’s not our product. We could keep up if we put in preservatives, but we refuse to do that. We’re not changing.”
They say franchise businesses could produce a loaf a bread — from dough to table — in about an hour. But, at Sarcone’s, the entire process takes up to six hours, as no machines, freezing and other processing is performed.
“Humans are involved with what we do,” Louis Sarcone, Jr. said.
“It’s a science downstairs,” Louis Sarcone III added.
For his kin, Louis’ legacy spills beyond the parameters of the baking pans. If anything supersedes the “quality over quantity” model, it’s family — taking care of the family inside and outside the walls of the bakery, which could be attributed the business’s 100-year-old birthday.
Since services for the deceased have ended, the family says they now hope to plan a centenary celebration in his honor.
“When I was little, the only thing that really kept me going was this 1918 to 2018,” Louis Sarcone, Jr. said. “I wanted my father to be around … and he made it.”
Now, his bloodline looks ahead toward the next 100 years.
“For my grandfather,” Louis Sarcone III said. “I want to make sure that I can keep the product the same to where his name, his last name — when people hear, ‘Sarcone’ they think ‘the best bread in the world,’ and I want to keep it that way.”