Alessandro first set up shop in a storefront bakery on DeKoven Street. Since his family had not yet joined him in Chicago, the little bake shop had a staff of one who did the mixing, baking and the evening delivery. It wasn't long before the Gonnella wagons became a familiar neighborhood site. By 1896 Alessandro had outgrown the little shop and moved to a larger building on Sangamon Street near Ohio. Things were going so well that Alessandro's wife, Marianna Marcucci, was able to leave their northern Italian village of Barga and join her husband, and in the early 1900s Marianna's brothers also made the trip.
The Gonnella and Marcucci families still run the bakery today. (33 family members are employed by the company today.)
In 1915, the family moved their bakery to Erie Street. A fleet of horse-drawn carriages were now making more than 200 deliveries a day. And the Gonnella company is still going strong today.
Gonnella delivery carriages line up on Sangamon just off Grand Ave. on Chicago’s west side in this vintage family photo taken in either 1905 or 1906. Gonnella Baking Company was growing, as was the Gonnella family. Alessandro Gonnella is pictured left, in a carriage with his wife and his first-born son, Annunzio, born in 1904.
Any company that has been in business for 125 years is entitled to celebrate, but Gonnella is doing it in a unique way:
To celebrate Gonnella’s 125th Anniversary in 2011, the company’s founding families are asking loyal customers, current and former employees, and friends to share their favorite Gonnella memories from over the years.
“We constantly hear from families who have grown up with Gonnella bread at their dinner table,” said Gonnella President Nick Marcucci. “As our family reflects on the past 125 years, we would like to hear from others who have their own Gonnella bread traditions.
Memories can come from anywhere. Maybe it’s biking to the bakery to get a loaf of fresh Gonnella bread for dinner because your mother said dinner wouldn’t be complete without it, or listening to legendary Chicago sports announcer Wesley “Red” Rush deliver his signature line, “Try Gonnella – it’s swella, fella!”
Anyone with a Gonnella-inspired memory can submit their story online at www.gonnella.com and clicking on the 125th anniversary link. Staff members will select the top stories and post them to the Gonnella website. The company also plans to select a grand prize winner for a very special surprise. Gonnella will also thank the best contributors with fresh baked bread and other surprises. Memories can be submitted throughout 2011.
What a great idea! Actually, I have already seen quite a few memory postings concerning Gonnella on the web; and check out the Facebook page, "I Grew Up on the Northwest Side of Chicago."
So, is the Gonnella Bakery the oldest in Chicago? Interesting you should ask. I believe it is, although David Witter, author of Oldest Chicago, might differ. Other contenders for the title are Pompei Bakery (1909; but it isn't a bakery now) and Roeser's Bakery (1911, which most definitely is). I say we battle it out with french rolls at ten paces! What do you all think?
Gonnella Bakery (abc7) Some very cool facts about the company.
In the Vicinity of Hull House and Maxwell Street Market
Italians (Encyclopedia of Chicago)
Photos courtesy of Gonnella Bakery Co.