Dearborn's Capri Italian Bakery bakes its way through pandemic

Capri Italian Bakery co-owner Ronda Errigo says she thought her business was "just going to die" when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She set a daily sales goal in her mind and resolved to close the Dearborn-based bakery if sales fell short of it.


However, nearly six months into the pandemic, the bakery has exceeded that goal every day – and Errigo says she's actually had to hire additional help to keep up with additional, unexpected demand.


Not just surviving but thriving during a pandemic has entailed some major changes for the bakery. Errigo and her husband John represent the third generation of the Errigo family to operate the 47-year-old bakery. Known for its fresh-baked bread, pizza, and pepperoni rolls, Capri has long been a staple for the Ford Motor Co. employees and other workers who'd flock there for lunch. When the pandemic hit, people started working from home, and dine-in service was closed by Gov. Whitmer's executive order, the bakery's lunch business disappeared.

Capri Italian Bakery. Photo by Doug Coombe.


However, Capri's regulars, their families, and people who live near the bakery started coming by to take their favorite Capri treats home with them – in large quantities.


"They would literally come and buy nine loaves of bread and put it in the freezer and come back in another week or two," Errigo says. "Or they would buy dinner for two, or pizza and pepperoni rolls, and literally take it home for their neighbors and leave it on the front porch. It was pretty cool to see people taking care of each other."


Errigo says the bakery's product mix has also changed in surprising ways to respond to changing customer demands.


"For some reason, the sweets fly out of here," she says. "... We're having to make more and more. We have a new baker who's getting pretty creative."


The business also sells some groceries, including pasta, sauces, and canned goods. Errigo says those items were extremely popular back in March and April, when people were clearing the shelves at major grocery chains, and groceries are still "flying off the shelves" now.

Capri Italian Bakery. Photo by Doug Coombe.


Capri responded quickly to the changes in its business. Errigo says she and her staff rearranged the store to allow for contactless service from "day one," placing tables in front of their service counters to create greater distance between staff and customers. While they offered curbside pickup before the pandemic, they've also greatly expanded that service.


Capri is now offering dine-in service again, and Errigo says she's been fortunate to have a large space in which to spread out dining tables. City employees, police officers, DTE employees, and others remain regulars at lunchtime. But, Errigo says, dine-in business is "nothing like it used to be, and I don't think it's going to happen again."


However, Capri has managed to make it through the pandemic without laying off any employees – and while maintaining what Errigo describes as "consistently steady" business.


"It's not exploding by any means, but we've managed," she says. "And I'm pretty happy, because we are very, very fortunate."


Read more articles by Patrick Dunn.

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @patrickdunnhere