Schubert’s Bakery, a staple for more than five decades in Nazareth, has closed its doors after announcing longtime owner Stephen Riccelli has died.
“It is a heartfelt time to announce that Stephen E. Riccelli has passed away early this morning,” a Saturday post on the business’ Facebook page read. “We would like to thank the family, friends, and local community for all the memories and experiences.”
The post goes on to say the bakery along North Broad Street would be closed until further notice. The same message was posted on the bakery’s front window Tuesday morning and stated on the business’ voicemail.
Ricelli leaves behind his wife of more than 20 years, Andrea Ricelli; his daughter, Ana Marie Ricelli of Bath; son, Ian Ricelli of Bath; and a sister, Anita Wample of Delaware. Services are planned from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Nazareth Moravian Church.
“We would like to thank the family, friends, and community for the love and support during this time of loss. You are invited to join the family in a celebration of Stephen’s life,” Ian Riccelli posted on his father’s public Facebook page.
A native of Delaware, Stephen Riccelli began culinary school for baking while attending high school. His side passion, however, was music and he was a member of the Blue Rock Drum Corps. Riccelli went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in Chester County. He directed the Brandywine High School drum and Bugle Corp. and helped direct the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps.
Stephen was an avid Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies fan. He also enjoyed golf and fishing with his children. Schubert’s, Ian said, was his dad’s first ambition owning a bakery and he was proud to be part of the small-town community.
The bakery is known for its Fastnachts, with staff crafting thousands of the fried dough treats annually in honor of the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition before Ash Wednesday. Riccelli of Bath told lehighvalleylive.com in 2013 it was one of the biggest holidays for the bakery with lines of patrons waiting outside the door.
Work on the holiday, Riccelli then said, went all night and into the next day until it came time to close and clean up all the white powder. Then, everyone went to sleep.
The bakery in 2014 was featured on the Food Network’s “Save My Bakery,” in which host Kerry Vincent is sent in to rehab a dated bakery’s menu and decor. The episode titled, “Battered Dreams,” focused on Vincent’s menu changes and renovations to Schubert’s brown interior to a crisp white one with green accents. The remodel also featured enlarged, framed photos of historic Nazareth, new seating, display cases and an eye-catching window display to mark the North Broad Street spot.
Riccelli wasn’t having it when Vincent recommended changing the bakery’s popular Moravian sugar cake — a recipe passed down from the bakery’s previous owner, the late Ernest Schubert. Vincent suggested halving the amount of brown sugar, adding crystallized, decorative sugars to the top, cutting the size of the product and packaging it in a fancy box to upsell customers.
Riccelli said his sugar cake would remain the same price, same recipe, same size and same packaging. The only thing he’d consider was to occasionally repackage the sugar cake on special occasions.
Vincent also suggested taking a 40-cent sugar cookie and adding sugar pearls and patterned frosting to create a $4 version. Riccelli replied to that feedback by hanging a sign in the store that read: “Today’s special: 40-cent sugar cookies.” He repeatedly said loyal Nazareth customers wanted the status quo.
Riccelli told a lehighvalleylive.com reporter he put his heart and soul into the business when he took it over in 2008. Also passed down from the late Schubert was a time-honored secret ingredient to make his doughnuts so profitable., he said. All the recipes, he said, were passed down when Riccelli bought the 40-year-old business from Schubert.
“We kept his recipes for the Fasnachts and our staple Moravian sugar cake, as well as the name as Schubert’s, because he created a history here and the bakery is known for it,” Riccelli had said. “People here can identify with it.’”
Riccelli went on to expand Schubert’s selection with cupcakes, turnovers, a wide variety of Italian cookies, muffins, shoo-fly pies and assorted cheese pastries. The business also began baking custom wedding and birthday cakes.
Riccelli was proud of the bakery’s longevity at a time when large supermarket chains were forcing many in the area to shut down, he had said.
“It’s really hard to be in business that long,” Riccelli had said. “We’ve never lost the fact that we’re part of a small town.”
Commenters on the bakery’s Facebook page mourned the late owner.
“So sorry to hear this. Thanks for making Nazareth a ‘sweeter’ place,” posted Claudine Driebe Hogan.
Patron Mike Cutro said he came to the bakery each Wednesday morning for a half of tomato pie for clients in New Jersey. He would send a message to Riccelli every Tuesday morning to confirm and every Tuesday, Cutro said he received the same reply with the exception of last week.
“He always gave me a ‘thumbs up,’ Cutro posted. “Steve became my friend. I looked forward to seeing him on Wednesdays as my clients … awaited me bringing in his tomato pie. Steve and I talked about everything from football to politics to my Corvettes.”
Cutro added he received a “thumbs down” last Tuesday and knew something was wrong.
“I will miss him very much,” posted Myron Biggar. “Every Friday morning I stopped in for my ‘sugar fix.’ “
Source: Thanks https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/nazareth/2020/01/schuberts-bakery-closes-following-death-of-longtime-owner.html