Three cousins remember their heritage
For The Madera Tribune
The Madera Baking Company, circa 1930, was located on F Street (Gateway Drive) between Yosemite Avenue and 5th Street. Shown here from left to right are Anne Barsotti (Grattone), Freda Barsotti (Cappelluti), Albert Barsotti, Nello Barsotti, George Badger, and Domenico Barsotti. The last name of the person on the right is Seagraves.
As the three cousins, Bill Alessini, Jim Barsotti, and Maurice Cappelluti, sat together in front of their audience, alphabetically they represented the ABCs of Madera’s Barsotti family: The trio descended from their grandparents, Domenico and Louisa Barsotti, and they had gathered to share some memories of their Italian heritage with this writer and his cohorts. A lot of the conversation turned to a local business of long standing — the Madera Baking Company.
The Barsotti family had first come to Madera from Firebaugh in order to go into the hotel business. They purchased the Vesuvius Hotel on F Street (present day Gateway Drive) and later built the Barsotti hotel. Although their hotel enterprise was a tremendous success, the Barsotti’s real legacy to the history of business in Madera was probably their baking operation.
When Domenico and Louisa Barsotti moved to Madera in 1906, they had six children: Nello, Salomena (Pera), Ida (Nicoletti), Evelina (Alessini), Anne (Grattone), and Freda (Cappelluti). After they relocated in Madera, their second son, Albert, destined to become one of Madera’s most influential mayors, was born.
With everybody lending a hand, the Barsottis operated their boarding houses until 1917, when they sold out to the partnership of Bernardi and Olivero, who added a bakery to the hotel. Unfortunately for them, the hotel burned, leaving only the bakery intact.
Bernardi and Olivero, at that point, decided to abandon their F Street venture and offered the bakery and the land upon which the hotel had stood to the Barsottis. Within a few weeks Domenico, Louisa, and their children were all working together to make their new enterprise work.
Everybody in the family had a role. Domenico and Nello took over the baking duties while Louisa and the children wrapped and packed the bread for delivery. Even young Albert had a job after he came home from grammar school. The youngest member of the family fried doughnuts and learned the pastry end of the business. The family built a retail shop, and Evelina was in charge of that end of the operation until 1919, when she married Ezio Alessini, one of the bakers who worked for the Barsottis. After Evelina’s marriage, Anne took her sister’s place.
By the early ‘20s, the family was ready to expand into the wholesale bread business, and that is when things really began to boom. In addition to their retail store, they sold their bread to all of the grocery stores in Madera, and soon they found themselves in need of a bigger bakery.
The Barsottis built a new brick building on the site where their hotel had once stood. It was large enough to accommodate the most modern machinery offered at the time, including a large brick oven and a wrapping room.
By this time, Domenico and Louisa, who were getting up in age, turned most of the bakery operations over to Nello and Albert (as young as he was). The parents helped Anne and Freda with the bread wrapping, which had to be done by hand and waxed through a small heating machine. Soon the Barsottis were able to expand their whole sale operation even farther.
They purchased additional trucks, hired more bakers and delivery men and soon the Barsotti’s bread, which now bore the names Puritan Twin and Sealed Kleen, was being hauled to Chowchilla, Merced, Planada, Mariposa, Los Banos, Firebaugh, and even to the mountains to the east. Some bread was even packed in large carton boxes and transported by auto stage into the mountains as far as Yosemite Valley.
Meanwhile, the Barsottis did not neglect those who were less fortunate. Domenico prepared packages of bread and cookies for distribution to families he knew were in need. Often Nello, Albert, and their brother-in-law, Ezio Alessini, took time from their own Thanksgiving and Christmas days to bake turkeys for folks free of charge. This service was also extended to many local organizations for their banquets.
The Barsottis remained in the bakery business until 1946, when they sold it to Francis Piper of San Jose. It remained in Madera for approximately 10 years. Meanwhile, the Barsotti family devoted themselves to civic activities such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Madera Merchants’ Association, St. Joachim’s Church and School, and the Italo American Club, just to name a few.
After the sale of the bakery, Albert was elected to the Madera elementary school board and later to the city council where he served as Mayor for 20 years.
Domenico Barsotti passed away in 1937, and Louisa died in 1959. They were true Americans and gave much more to their adopted country than they took. Today a host of descendants carry on their family example of seizing every opportunity, working hard, saving, and giving.
The three cousins told a great story, and we should all be proud.