By Tiffany Razzano
Originally published Feb. 24, 2017
Many lawyers and judges envision a career in the justice system from a young age and make that their life’s goal.
Recently retired Judge William Fuente took a different path to the courtroom, though. As a child, he initially dreamed of a career in the medical field.
Born in Key West, he was raised in Tampa. His grandparents hailed from Cuba, Argentina and Spain, and both his parents were born in Tampa. His father was a machine operator for Southern Bakeries while his mother worked as a clerk at Eckerd Drugs.
Fuente attended B.C. Graham Elementary School, Washington Jr. High School and the original Jefferson High School before it was relocated. “All of them had large Hispanic student bodies,” he said.
The whole time he imagined he would go on to a career as a doctor. After graduating from high school in 1963, he attended a technical school through Tampa General Hospital. He went on to the University of South Florida to study biology, and to help put himself through school he worked as an X-ray technician.
He left USF to join the Navy in 1967. First he served as a hospital corpsman, serving first in a naval hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, before being shipped to a Marine Corp air facility in Okinawa, Japan.
When Fuente was discharged from the Navy in 1971, he returned to USF to finish his biology degree. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point in time other than get some kind of professional degree,” he said.
Initially, he thought he would move on to medical school to become a doctor, or maybe he would attend dental school. But by then he was a bit older than the typical medical student, and was married and had two children. So he wasn’t sure medical school was a good fit. He also considered becoming a hospital administrator, but thought it might be too competitive.
He had friends studying law, though. Several of them had applied to South Texas College of Law. This got Fuente thinking. “I thought maybe I would be a lawyer,” he said. So he applied to South Texas. “I got accepted and we trucked up there, my wife Maggi, and my two kids, Daniele and Jaret.”
He later learned that the Texas law school was a haven for future Tampa lawyers. This was because of the influence of Judge E.J. Salcines, who presided over Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal. “A whole ton of Tampa lawyers graduated from there,” Fuente said. “Curiously I didn’t know who [Salcines] was until after I applied to school there and was ready to graduate.”
Fuente spent two years in law school. He returned to Tampa in January 1976 for an internship in the Florida state attorney’s office, an internship he obtained with Salcines’ help. That same year, he passed the bar the first time he took it and was hired by Salcines as an assistant state attorney.
He worked for the state for several years before leaving to form a private practice. He was still drawn to medicine and thought perhaps he might specialize in cases involving the field, such as medical malpractice. “But I fell in love with criminal work,” he said. He ran a private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for nearly 15 years, trying hundreds of cases, many of them homicides. He became a board-certified criminal trial lawyer through the Florida Bar in 1990.
Even today, he said, he’ll be out in public – “walking downtown or in the mall or something” – and people will recognize him from representing their cases decades earlier. “I did a lot of trial work,” he said.
In 1994, Fuente was appointed to the Hillsborough County Court as judge by Governor Lawton Chiles. “I wouldn’t have done that because I didn’t believe I could ever become a judge – it was so political,” he said. “My wife urged me and urged me to do it.” He put his name in for the role several times before being appointed judge.
As county judge, he presided over criminal cases, mostly misdemeanors such as DUIs, he said. He recalls one time, though, when he stepped in on a high-profile case from a circuit court judge who fell ill. The case was the murder of Lobster Boy, a circus side show performer whose hands looked like lobster claws and who lived in the Riverview area. His wife had him killed, justifying it because he had been abusive. “There was an interesting legal issue in that case,” Fuente said. “We litigated a lot and I made the decision to allow the issue of self-defense to go to the jury. It was the first time it could be asserted in murder.” The wife was eventually convicted of murder.
After three years as a county court judge, he was appointed to the circuit court. Again, “I didn’t think it could happen,” Fuente said. “My wife encouraged me to apply and I did.” He’s thankful to the many lawyers and others who supported his appointment. “It was very, very humbling.”
For his first six months serving in the circuit court, he handled civil court cases before moving into the criminal trial division where he presided over felony jury trials, many of them involving death penalty litigation. He estimates that he’s tried about 900 jury trials since 1998, with 500 of those in the criminal trial division.
One of the high-profile cases he took on was the murder trial of Dontae Morris, who was convicted of killing two police officers. He also had several other homicide cases pending around the same time. Fuente tried three of these cases.
“It was difficult trying to maintain a sense of fairness for everyone involved, especially the defendant,” Fuente said. In such a high-profile case, it was difficult finding a jury with little knowledge of the case. “So I selected a jury in Orlando and tried the case here.”
He also presided over the case of Richard McTear, who was charged with the homicide of an infant after throwing him from a moving vehicle on the interstate.
Fuente, now 71, retired Jan. 2 of this year. Though there’s a law requiring judges to retire by age 70, the law also allows for judges who have completed more than half of their term by the time they’re 70 to see it to completion.
Since retiring in January, he’s spent time catching up on life, such as doctor’s appointments. He and his wife plan to spend time at the beach and to travel, though. They’re considering a trip to Cuba.
Fuente is one of several judges to retire this year. A handful of them all attended South Texas College of Law. So a group of Tampa attorneys, judges and others within the local legal system organized an event to honor them Jan. 12 at Carne ChopHouse. More than 500 people attended, Fuente said.
“It was amazing,” he added. “I just want to thank all the people involved in that. I’m so thankful for the people who put that together, who donated money to put it together. My wife and I appreciate everybody’s efforts.”
Retirement has been an adjustment for him, he admits. “The courthouse has been my and my wife’s daily environment since 1976,” he said. “That’s a long time.”
Published Dec. 30, 2016
By: Mike Merino
Over the years, the Tampa Bay radio scene has had its share of great ones who have come and gone. But amidst the sea of countless music and talk show personalities that permeate that magical box on the dashboard of our cars and home stereo systems, few have stood the test of time as successfully as WFLA 970 radio host Tedd Webb. His name and voice have been a mainstay in Tampa`s nationally recognized, and always growing, entertainment market. His social and intellectual impact on our community is immeasurable. This talented media star has been shinning strong for over 53 years, and there`s no glimpse of retirement in his future. I sat down with Tedd to get some of his thoughts on his illustrious media career and the state of radio`s future.
Why did you choose a career in radio?
I was singing with a band for two years, but my voice started cracking and they kicked me out. I was 14 years old at the time. A friend, John Madiedo, told me WALT radio station was having a “contest” and if you won, you could be a disc jockey on weekends. I went to the station for the so-called “contest,” which turned out to be an audition for a weekend slot. I didn’t get the job. I was pitted against a bunch of 20- and 21-year old guys with experience. I saw the guy on the air working in an air-conditioned room – we didn’t have AC at my house growing up. He had 10 phones loaded with young ladies calling in requests, AND there was no heavy lifting: BINGO! I found what I wanted to do for life. I hung around the station and Paige Kinsey, one of their weekend guys, gave me “hi time” and instructed me on how to run the board [controls] and how to ready commercials. He would tape me after the station went off the air and allowed me the chance to learn. Before long, I became one of their high school correspondents [Jesuit High], and from there to a weekend slot. The rest is history. Here I am 53 years later.
What’s been your most significant radio accomplishment?
In 1986 I was awarded the Toastmasters International Communicator of the Year. I took a nun, Sister Rosalie, as my date that night to receive the award. She inspired me to be a public speaker when I was going to school at St Joseph’s. She forced me to give five-minute speeches, while others were only given a two-minute assignment. I owe everything to her!
Who was the craziest celebrity you ever interviewed? What did he/she do that was so memorable?
National Football League bad boy John Matuzak, who is now deceased but was 6’8” and 275 pounds, showed up at the radio station with a girl whom my mom used to babysit. Her name was Eileen, but she was going by Candy then. When he found out we knew each other he got jealous and threatened to kick my ass. Because of the massive amounts of steroids he was taking, he thought she was an ex-girlfriend of mine. We went to commercial break for eight minutes before the situation was settled. WOW, that was a close one!
Has social media changed radio?
We at the station are doing a great job with social media. It has become the focus of what we do; the on- air stuff is secondary nowadays. Our streaming numbers are through the roof and we utilize the Internet as much as possible. We have adapted rather well and use Twitter and Facebook a lot to promote the show and other interests that I have.
Where do you see radio in 20 years?
I think radio is shrinking in influence. Young kids don’t rely on the radio to determine what is hip – they get that from social media and other sources. They download their music from the Internet; they don’t sit around waiting for the same seven songs to be played every 63 minutes. Radio is a compacting business, not expanding. When Rush Limbaugh is heard on 600-plus radio stations, it means he’s put 600-plus announcers out of work. Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, etc. – do the math, that’s a lot of announcers replaced by syndication. On the music end, there are voice-over DJs. One guy gets off the air, goes into another studio and does voice tracking for four or five other stations across the country. There goes another four or five jobs. Not a good sign for the future if you are starting out in the biz.
What is your advice for young people entering the industry?
I tell them not to get in the business. Why? It’s like pro athletes. Only a handful of the many who try are going to make it. Go to school. Earn a degree in a profitable field with a future. I warned my son Lee eight years ago NOT to get into the biz. He didn’t listen. Here he is eight years later, still working part-time, with little chance of promotion. He is reconsidering his career choice right now. Go to school or learn a trade, but broadcasting is not one of those fields I would recommend to anyone.
Silhouettes: by Tiffany Razzano
An eighth-generation Plant City resident, Shelby Bender remembers the exact moment she recognized the importance of community.
As an elementary school student, one of the teachers would enlist the help of local children to collect money for the American Heart Fund. Bender and her sister were selected one year and helped that teacher for as long as she can remember. Dressed in their Sunday finest, the group of students went door to door, asking their neighbors to donate to the cause. Afterward, they’d meet at the TECO community center for refreshments and to discuss how much they collected. “That was probably the start of my being active in the community,” said Bender, executive director and president of the East Hillsborough Historical Society. “I’ve always been passionate about giving back.”
Aside from spending a few years in Gainesville while her husband attended college, Bender has spent her entire life in Plant City. “Some people have real strong roots somewhere and they’re well established,” she said. “I’m one of those people.”
When she and her husband returned to their hometown, they took over the dry-blend fertilizer manufacturing company his family had owned and operated for decades in Plant City. Though she went on to earn her associate degree from Hillsborough Community College while her children were little, she decided not to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the time. “I had my full-time job with the family business. I was happy with what I was doing and the family was comfortable,” she said.
Then, after running the business for 30 years, Bender and her husband decided to shut down the manufacturing plant. The company had been in existence for 81 years. “At one point in time, Hillsborough County was a very large agricultural community,” she said. “But things change.” Forty years ago, there were “eight or nine dry-blend fertilizer companies” in the county, she added. “Now there are none.” Her family’s company at one time had been located in the heart of the city, near the railroad tracks, but Plant City’s midtown expansion forced them out.
Bender was 56 years old when the company closed down. “We had to reinvent ourselves and start over,” she said. “Sometimes in life you just have to write a new chapter.”
She decided to go back to school and complete her degree, earning a bachelor’s degree in general studies from St. Leo University and, later, a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of South Florida. She also worked for a year as finance secretary for Mulberry High School.
Even while running the company with her husband, she was always heavily involved with community activities, spending much of her time volunteering for the East Hillsborough Historical Society. Running her own business gave her the flexibility to spend a significant amount of time with the historical society. In fact, for years she was in charge of many of the duties she takes on today as executive director and president of the group. “When you own your own business, you can make your own hours,” Bender explained. “But I no longer had that flexibility while working for the school.”
So she and the historical society decided to get creative. The group always had an administrative person working part-time in the office. When that role opened up, they decided to revamp it, creating the executive director position for Bender. “I wanted to do this and I knew I could do this,” she said. “We just had to approach the role a little differently.”
As executive director, she works out of the historic 1914 Plant City High School Community Center – her former junior high school – which houses the EHHS office, Pioneer Museum and Quintilla Geer Bruton Archives Center.
Bender has always been interested in local history, as well as genealogy. She remembers as a young girl her grandmother telling her about their family history. “She was very influential. My own interest in our family history just kind of went from there,” she said.
Learning about her family, “who they were in reality, what they did, what kind of people they were,” connected her to her roots and strengthened her sense of self.
She’s traced her family lineage as far back as the 1600s, to England, Scotland, Germany and Russia. “As you keep going back, you develop an interest not just in local history, but in history throughout time,” she said.
She added, “It’s really interesting to see how they existed. A person might think we’re in hard times now, but no, we’re not in hard times.”
She’s also built up a roster of private clients, especially in the realm of adoption research. For nearly 25 years, Bender has worked with adoptees and birth families to make connections.
Bender has also co-authored four books on Plant City history and Tampa cemeteries. In fact, in addition to genealogy and family histories, her other specialties include historic preservation, the history and care of cemeteries and funerary art. “A cemetery is a true history of a community,” she said.
She serves on several other local organizations as well. She is chair of the Plant City Historic Resources Board. The board oversees three local and national register historic districts. She also serves on the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Grant Panel and the Plant City Main Street Board of Directors, and is secretary of the Florida State Genealogical Society. And as a nearly nine-year member of the Hillsborough County Historic Advisory Council – and recently member emeritus – she’s helped establish numerous historic markers throughout the county by recommending and finding sites with historical importance to the community. Some of these locations include the Hillsborough County Cemetery, which served as a pauper’s cemetery, and Florida College in Temple Terrace.
The EHHS also hosts numerous events throughout the year in an effort to reach out to the community. They organize Pioneer Heritage Day each November, holding an open house at the 1914 Plant City High School Community Center. The organization is also gearing up for their upcoming fundraiser, one of their biggest of the year, Bender said, running a strawberry shortcake booth at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
In addition, the group sponsors and runs a number of workshops for the community, from genealogy to cemetery care and preservation. The next workshop is “Copyright Workshop for Authors, Artists and Musicians,” to be held Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the 1914 Plant City High School Community Center. The workshop is free and preregistration is required.
Then, on Saturday, Feb. 11, 7 to 10 p.m., the center will host the Florida Opry’s Country to Pop tribute show to country music legend Patsy Cline.
The organization tries to reach the community any way that it can, Bender remarked. “It’s important that we all remember where we came from,” she added.
By: Tiffany Razzano
Originally appeared in the July 8, 2016 edition of La Gaceta Newspaper
Musician. Actor. Swing Dancer. Pilot. Marksman. Photojournalist.
Jim Webb is used to wearing many hats. “I’ve lived four lives in one so far, easily,” he said.
But these days he has honed in on just one passion: growing his business, The Webb Works. With an ear for storytelling, Webb specializes in producing legacy and web-based videos for businesses, governments and families. So he’s pushed his other talents and interests to the side for the time being to focus on sharing these stories. “Everybody’s got a story and I love helping people tell it,” he said.
Still, his varied interests come in handy whenever he’s trying to connect with the individuals who are featured in his videos. “I’m rarely not able to find common ground with people,” he said. “And as a photojournalist, I’ve had the opportunity to be out and meet different people, and I use these skills in my business and to connect with people. I’ve learned to draw people out. I have at least a little bit of capacity for showing interest [in others] and getting people’s stories, because everybody has one. It all plays right into my curious nature.”
Webb grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, his mother enrolled him and his siblings in music lessons. In high school, he went on to join the marching band, performing in the brass section. He was also an athlete, lettering in tennis, cross country track and swimming.
He went on to study at Kent State University where he joined the marching band, was a diver on the swim team and also a member of the cheerleading team. “Boy was that a smart move on my part,” he said. “I got to be around some of the most beautiful women on campus. And when we went to other colleges, I got to be around some of the most beautiful women on their campus.”
During the summer of 1973, he headed to Wisconsin to perform with the legendary Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corp. That’s all it took for him to be “hooked” on drum corp. He performed with them through 1975, his last year of eligibility since he had turned 21. But that year the group was the undefeated Drum Corp International. He stayed on as an instructor for an additional five years. “It’s an art form,” he said, “and I haven’t seen a single marching band in high school or college that wasn’t affected by it.”
Decades later, his time with the Madison Scouts still affects him. “I draw on that daily for inspiration,” Webb said.
An avid photographer since a high school student – he borrowed his mother’s Kodak Instamatic camera as a teen “and she never saw that camera again” – he was offered a job taking photos for an NBC affiliate in Madison. After five years, he moved to Toledo, Ohio to take a job as a news photographer for the PBS station there and also to be closer to home.
In 1984, he accepted a position as photojournalist for WFLA News Channel 8. “I was in the news department there, shooting news on film, long before video cameras and live trucks and all of that,” he said. After a year and a half, he was promoted to chief photographer, overseeing special projects and the department. It was a time of growth at the station, he said. Staff doubled and the station added a number of special shows and weekend editions.
Webb has also remained involved with his many passions since moving to Tampa. He’s served as chairman of the board for the Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps and volunteered to work with the Robinson High School marching band.
He took up swing dancing, something he learned as a child, and not only did he frequent local swing dance events, he taught it as well for several years.
He continued to play music, forming a band – a 12-piece rhythm and blues revue – with other journalists for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Battle of the Media Bands, which raised money for its minority scholarship.
He took flying lessons after years of flying radio-controlled planes and spending time up in the air as Channel 8’s primary photographer. He even went on to fly with the Blue Angels. And because of a video he shot for a friend, he developed an interest in skeet and trap shooting, becoming a decent marksman.
Webb is also an actor and does voiceover work. He’s the official voice of the Tampa Bay Arts Center Entertainment Network. He’s appeared on stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall in productions including “Guys and Dolls” and “South Pacific.” He also appeared in the short film “The Wallet,” which was selected for the Gasparilla International Film Festival. (Several other films he’s filmed himself have appeared at the film fest as well.)
All the while, he worked for Channel 8. Working for the news station, he traveled the country – sometimes the world. “I got to tell stories and meet the most interesting people in the places that I’ve worked and get paid for it,” he said. He’s met everyone from actors to national leaders, from James Earl Jones to President Barack Obama and Colin Powell. He’s travelled around the country and to places such as the Kremlin, in Russia, and the Andes Mountains. “The list goes on and on. I’ve had many, many brushes with greatness. That camera has been my passport to travel to many places and do things I never would have done.”
But it wasn’t all fun for Webb. He also had to cover difficult stories about death and violence. “I’ve seen the very best and the very worst of the human condition from behind my camera,” he said. He recalls that when working in Toledo, every spring as the Toledo River thawed, a body would come floating to the surface. He’d inevitably have to cover this news. “I’ve recorded things, I saw things that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” he said.
This is part of the reason he decided to leave the news business and create The Webb Works to focus on legacy and corporate videos. He wanted to make videos that told happy stories and touched people.
He recalls a series on aging that he filmed while working for PBS in Toledo. “I knew then that some of the people I was recording wouldn’t be around in 10 years,” he said. That’s how he realized the importance of preserving people’s stories. “You don’t want to wait until it’s too late. You want to get the twinkle of their eye or the sound of their laughter before you can’t. Those are the treasures”.
While he creates videos for corporate entities such as Tampa General Hopsital, WellCare and the University of South Florida, “the legacy videos are what I live for,” he said. “When I get my chance to sink my teeth in a good story, I want to record it. And there’s a lot of them slipping away from us.”
Webb currently operates out of a studio space on West Shore Boulevard. He’s recently teamed up with a film photographer, Hallie Ladd Heck, who also rents space in the same building. The pair are building out a larger, 1,400-square-foot studio with a green room and meeting space. He’ll be able to offer photography classes and swing dance lessons in the larger, open space. “It’s going to be really nice when we’re done in a few weeks,” he said. “There are so many possibilities.”
He’s also writing a book. It’s part memoir, sharing his life story, and part encouragement for others to pursue their passions. “I’ve been fortunate enough to do this my entire life,” he said. When he meets college students, he has one piece of advice for them: “Do what you liked to do as a child. If you do your passions, then you’ll never work another day in your life.”
He added, “Then I like to modify that a little bit. I tell them to do what you did as a kid that got you into trouble, but kept doing anyway.”
By: Tiffany Razzano
Originally appeared in the July 15, 2016 edition of La Gaceta Newspaper
It’s not often that a business survives 100 years. It’s even less likely that a company with such vast history will remain in the hands of a single family the entire time.
This is part of what makes the story of Ybor City’s La Segunda Bakery, which celebrated its centennial anniversary last year, so amazing.
“I’ve read about this. I’ve heard that the third generation is the one that usually fails,” said Copeland Moré, the fourth-generation owner of the bakery known for its authentic Cuban bread. “So I have to give a lot of credit to my dad, [Tony,] and his cousin, [Raymond.] They were really just hard workers. There’s really no other way to put it.”
Copeland said the driving force that has kept the family bakery in business is a shared passion for the bread that has continued from generation to generation. Even today, his father, who is now 74 and co-owns La Segunda, comes into work every morning and often puts in a full work day. “He loves it. He doesn’t ever want to retire. He doesn’t want to just go home and lay around, just sit there,” Copeland said. “He wants to stay active and be involved in the business.”
Copeland added, “And there’s part of that in me too. I love it. I love talking about it. That’s how the business carries on and becomes a family legacy.”
La Segunda was founded by Copeland’s great-grandfather, Juan Moré. Hailing from Spain’s Catalan region, he traveled to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century. This was where he fell in love with authentic Cuban bread and learned how to make it himself.
After the war, like many others, he was drawn to Ybor City during its cigar boom, with one goal in mind: opening a bakery. At the onset of World War I, he joined a small baking cooperative that opened three bakeries: La Primera, La Segunda and La Tercera. When the other two folded, Juan purchased La Segunda in 1915. He made a name for himself supplying local restaurants, such as the Columbia, with bread, and residents of the district knew La Segunda was where they could purchase authentic Cuban bread.
Over the years, the business passed on to other family members, first to Copeland’s grandfather, and then to his father and his father’s cousin. It was Tony and Raymond who started the company’s wholesale operations in the mid-1990s.
The Columbia Restaurant Group began making its wholesale food purchases through food distributor Sysco. When the Columbia made the change, they told Sysco: “We need La Segunda bread.” So Tony and Raymond figured out a way to freeze and ship the bread, which opened up opportunities to get their product to new customers.
Meanwhile, Copeland, who worked in the bakery as a child and teenager, doing everything from delivering bread to packing cookie boxes, never thought he’d enter the family business. “I grew up in the bakery,” he said. “It was always a big part of our family … But I never thought I’d run it one day.”
His father never pressured him to feel like he had to enter the family business and instead encouraged Copeland to pursue his own interests. His father had a PhD in chemistry, teaching for a while and even had an offer with a chemical company. But his father felt compelled to take over La Segunda. “It was a business that I don’t think my dad really wanted me to be exposed to,” Copeland said. “He was there long hours. We are open 24 hours a day.”
After graduating from Berkeley Preparatory School, Copeland headed to Ohio, where he studied business at Miami University. He returned to Tampa and began working at his friend’s company, Franklin Street Financial, a real estate financing company. Then the real estate bubble burst in 2008. The company hung out – and today is doing well, Copeland said – but he began to rethink what he wanted to do for a living.
At the time, Raymond was ready to retire from La Segunda. So Copeland decided to step up and become co-owner of the family business. “The opportunity happened really organically,” he said. “I weighed all the options, looked at the numbers, met with everyone and made a decision. It was a big opportunity. I felt we had a great brand and a great product.”
He also saw the chance to modernize the company, a bit, while retaining its old-world charm that is such a draw for customers. The first thing he did was build a website for La Segunda.
Next, the father-son team looked to rebrand the company. “If you say ‘La Segunda’ to people, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, great bread,’ but they don’t come here,” Copeland said. “They know our bread from the Columbia and other local restaurants.”
There had always been a large divide between La Segunda’s wholesale business and its café business, where they sold bread, sandwiches, pastries and coffee. So they looked to improve the café side of the business. “It was just about rebranding it a little bit so people were aware of it being a destination and show them that it’s a different concept than Panera Bread or wherever else you might get a sandwich,” Copeland said.
They renovated the building, making it more trendy and appealing, while still offering an old-school feel of a century-old business. “I feel the most important part of marketing is making sure the internal stuff looks good and is functioning,” he said.
He also brought in a digital register, allowing the café to accept credit cards for the first time. He also focused on customer service. “We wanted people to come in and feel like they’re part of the family and also get served quickly,” he said. While the café doesn’t offer seating, “we want people to come in and out fast without being rushed. We want families to see what an old-world bakery is like and take their time. But once they make their decision, we get them out fast.”
Café sales improved drastically with the changes. Though wholesale sales still make up the bulk of La Segunda’s business – wholesale accounts for 75 percent of all business for the bakery – café sales tripled, Copeland said.
He also brought a pair of fresh eyes to the wholesale end of the business. His father and cousin had done a great deal to grow that side of the company. But as La Segunda began to provide bread to national chains – World of Beer, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Larry’s Giant Subs – Copeland saw an opportunity. “We market towards the markets that already have distribution established” thanks to these chains, he said. “We have sales reps that really hammer those markets and work on expanding our distribution.”
Today, La Segunda Cuban bread is used by restaurants from Seattle to Texas and throughout the East Coast, he added. As the Cuban sandwich gains popularity throughout the country, more and more restaurants are offering it on their menu. “But they put it on hoagie bread of Italian bread because they don’t know any better,” Copeland said. “They don’t know that they can get handmade Ybor City bread. Now we can get it to them.”
Despite the growth and changes, La Segunda retains its family feel, Copeland said. Many employees have worked for the bakery for decades. Sheila, who works up front, has been with the company for 44 years. Many of the master bakers have worked for the bakery for 20 or 30 years. “We’re fortunate a lot of the staff has stayed with us,” Copeland said. “Making Cuban bread way we make it is difficult. There’s no air conditioning in the back of bakery. So they’re really at the mercy of the elements and the weather. Being able to adjust and know this flour is different from that flour and today there’s more humidity and it’s hotter out and making all those adjustments takes years and years of experience of working with the dough and touching the dough. Without those guys there wouldn’t be Cuban bread the way people taste it.”
Copeland has also become involved with the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. In May, he was inducted as chair of the chamber board. He started out as a board member five years ago, before becoming treasurer and then incoming chair.
He has a big year planned for the chamber. He plans to create a small business council, which would offer resources and information to small business owners. “I feel like what a chamber should be to a district is to really help small businesses and I think it’s something we’ve lost focus on a little bit over the years,” he said.
He added, “Big businesses move in and the government gives them tax incentives, and this and that, and small businesses don’t really get anything. We want to help them get into business and stay successful.”
The chamber will also rebrand some of its seminal events to make them more family friendly. “We want Ybor City to be thought of as family friendly and not just night clubs and bars and a part district,” Copeland said. “There’s a lot of history here and people should know about it.”
He added, “It’s an important organization for me and our family, so I definitely want to give back. It’s important to give back to the district that has done so much for us over the years.”