TAMPA ― Before Tony Moré became the baker synonymous nationwide with Cuban bread, he earned a doctorate in chemistry.
But Moré often said that his degree did not go to waste.
He claimed to use his scientific knowledge to perfect the recipe for La Segunda Central Bakery’s Cuban bread, which is shipped as far away as Alaska.
“He was telling the truth,” son Anthony Copeland Moré said. “The way we bake bread is different than at an industrial-sized bakery where you push a button, and it comes out. It’s affected by the water, weather, crew you have working. So much goes into it, but he made it work because he approached it like a science.”
Tony Moré, the retired third-generation owner of the 108-year-old La Segunda, died Sunday. He was 80.
His son said Moré was a family man first. Work never got in the way of spending time with kids and grandkids.
But when asked how his father would want to be remembered outside of the home, Anthony Copeland Moré, fourth-generation La Segunda owner, said: “For the bread and the integrity of the product. When we recently expanded from just our Ybor location to one in South Tampa and another in St. Pete, he didn’t really care about the growth. His concern was that we make the bread the same.”
In recent years, Tony Moré estimated that La Segunda bakes an average of 20,000 loaves of Cuban bread a day, seven days a week. Around 95% of the country’s Cuban bread is made in this area, he also estimated, and 98% of that is baked by La Segunda.
“For Tony, everything had to be perfect with every loaf of Cuban bread,” said Robbie Faedo, manager of Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine, which uses La Segunda’s bread for their Cuban sandwiches. “If the length was wrong, he was on top of it. And if someone forgot to place that palmetto leaf perfectly down the middle of the loaf before it went in the oven, it could not be sold.”
That palmetto leaf is La Segunda’s signature. It is used to create a seam as the bread bakes around it.
Fourth-generation Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart said his family’s eatery has been using La Segunda bread for more than a century.
“I remember my early years working at the Columbia at age 18, and part of my job responsibility was to transport warm, baked Cuban bread from the bakery to the Columbia in Ybor. After six weeks of eating a half a loaf every day in that 1-mile journey, I gained 10 pounds,” he said. “I recall Tony Moré fondly as being kind. He provided me much information about the chemistry that it takes to make the best Cuban bread in the world.”
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Historians have credited Tony Moré's grandfather, Juan Moré, for bringing the modern version of Cuban bread to Tampa.
Born in Catalonia, Spain, Juan Moré “was sent to Cuba with the Spanish Army to fight to preserve the colony during the Revolution of 1875,” Tony Pizzo wrote in “Tampa: The Treasure City.” “It was during this conflict that Cuban bread changed its shape. The war caused a shortage of flour, and the resourceful Cubans converted the conventional round loaf into a long, thin shape. This made it practical to cut into pieces for rationing.”
After the war, Juan Moré came to Tampa with a piece of paper scribbled with a Cuban bread recipe. In 1915, with cousins Raymond and Tony Moré, he opened La Segunda in Ybor on the corner of 15th Street and 14th Avenue. It later moved to its current Ybor address at 2512 N 15th St.
Tony Moré was born in Tampa on Nov. 29, 1942, according to his obituary. In 1963, he was a member of the University of South Florida’s first graduating class, earning a degree in chemistry. He later received his doctorate from Florida State University, where he met his future wife, Judy Ann Copeland.
He taught high school chemistry and coached tennis at Mulberry High School but decided that Tampa and La Segunda were a better fit.
“He spent the next 50 years of his life in the family bakery business where he grew, expanded, and most importantly to him, upheld the traditions started by his grandfather,” the obituary said.
He retired a few years ago, but Anthony Copeland Moré said that his father was often still at the bakery and always available if needed.
“He just had this incredible knowledge,” he said. “We could take a picture of a random wire on the wall, send it to him, and he would know exactly what it was, what wall it was on and when it was put there. He knew everything about this business.”
Said Faedo: “He had pride in what he did and that showed. When it came to bread, he was a brilliant man. He is a Tampa icon.”
Born: Nov. 29, 1942
Died: April 2, 2023
Survived by: Wife, Judy Copeland Moré; children Jennifer Moré Stauffer; Suzanne Moré Paul, Anthony Copeland Moré; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church at 3501 W San Jose St. in Tampa.