DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS "There's no other place around here like this," explains Larry "Mickey" Padora. The Tamaqua man has been baking all-natural Italian bread using a coal-fired oven for well over 50 years.
At age 83, Lawrence 'Mickey' Padora is an overnight television sensation.
The Tamaqua native and his son, Larry Jr., 36, are generating lots of comment and taking much good-natured ribbing now that their unique bakery operation has hit big time media.
The two Italian bread bakers were featured recently on a special television segment produced two weeks ago by Fox 41 in Louisville, Ky.
The segment is titled: Italian bread the old fashioned way.
It begins by stating: "In the small mountain town of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, the Padora family is getting up close and personal with 250 pounds of bread dough. So begins another day like all days since The Italian Bakery was built in the 1890s."
The Padoras also benefited from a recent rebroadcast of a special segment of WNEP-TV's "On the Pennsylvania Road with Mike Stevens." WNEP is an ABC network affiliate based in the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton market.
If that weren't enough, Padora's Italian Bakery also is featured on the Internet via a YouTube video, and on the popular Facebook social network site. The YouTube video has received over 6,000 hits.
Business is bustling at the bakery. People are fascinated by the father-son duo and the mouth-watering Italian bread a treat so natural that some doctors advise their diabetic patients to eat it.
The Padoras start their day at 5 a.m., baking all-natural Italian bread in Pennsylvania's only anthracite coal-fired brick bakery oven, a 100-year-old masterpiece that traces its roots to Italy. They use the original recipe with no chemicals, no additives and no preservatives.
The authenticity of their oven, their special recipe and their old-world charm are a winning combination that draws widespread interest.
But the Padoras are taking the attention all in stride. The popularity doesn't surprise Larry, Jr., who admits that the daily activity inside the small bakery would make for interesting viewing, similar to the feel of the hit show Orange County Choppers.
"They ought to be doing a television show here," he says. "You wouldn't believe the arguments I get into with my dad. We're total opposites. We disagree on everything."
Padora's Italian Bakery has become a tourist destination at its humble location along a section of North Railroad Street known as Pleasant Row.
"One time we had about 40 people jammed in here," says Mickey.
The bakery recently hosted a class from the state of Washington, studying Old World customs.
"It was a special school. They spent two days with us," Mickey explains.
Because the number of orders for bread can vary from day to day, the Padoras never know exactly how many loaves they'll bake.
But it's not uncommon for the two to produce 500 loaves a day.
They also employ three deliverymen who alternate taking the bread to customers, which include supermarkets, convenience marts and restaurants. The bread also is available to walk-ins at the bakery beginning around 11:30 ,every day but Sunday.
"There's no other place around here like this," says Mickey.
The business only closed twice. Once was during the Korean conflict. The other happened in 1998 when the bakery's dough mixer - a 1913 Peerless Bread Machine - broke down during the middle of a busy week.
A family friend, councilman John "Sonny" Trudich Jr., came to the rescue. Trudich helped to remove the worn bin and directed the Padoras to a Tamaqua fabricator, Nestor's Iron Works. There, a thick steel band six-feet long was manufactured and shaped to form a new bin. The bakery reopened on Saturday, just two days later.
A feature story about the Padora bread making process and the mystique of Padora's hard-crusted Italian bread will appear in the TIMES NEWS later this month.