by Jim DiStasio, Joe Stella and Paul Basile
Even though the Turano Baking Co. is one of the largest bread makers in the nation, its heart still beats with the warmth and generosity of a small family business. For the last half century, La Famiglia Turano has steadily built a world-class company firmly rooted in values that can be traced to its founder.
Launched in a storefront shop in Chicago in 1962 by Mariano Turano, the company has blossomed under the stewardship of sons Renato, Tony and Giancarlo into a national powerhouse with more than 750 employees who create more than a million pounds of bread weekly at each of four facilities across the country, which have a combined square footage that exceeds 600,000.
Involved in the business since day one, the three brothers have been the driving force behind the company’s remarkable growth. But despite their phenomenal success, they have never forgotten their roots, building an equally impressive legacy of generosity that is nothing short of legendary.
As the trio oversees the company’s 50th anniversary celebration, they are secure in the knowledge that the future of the enterprise is in the capable hands of a third generation that includes Renato’s son and daughter, Mario and Lisa; Tony’s daughter, Jennifer; and Giancarlo’s sons, Joseph, Giancarlo II and Anthony.
Ask any Turano what makes success so sweet, and you’ll get nearly identical answers.
“It’s being able to take the great gift our father gave us and turn it into a thriving enterprise where family is still the key,” Tony explains.
“It’s being able to see my family every day, that’s the most satisfying part of what we do,” Giancarlo adds. “To be able to share everything with our family.”
“Family is the essence of our existence,” Renato concludes. “As Italians, the greatest value that we keep is the love of family and the concept that family is the most important thing.”
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The Turano family spirit was instilled by Mariano and Assunta, a young couple from Calabria who came to America with their three sons in 1958 in pursuit of the American dream.
A coffee salesman in Italy, Mariano found a job working construction in Chicago during the week while he helped out in his spare time at his brother Carmen’s grocery store and bakery.
There, Mariano baked bread using an old family recipe from his hometown. At the time, there was nothing available locally like his family’s hearty two-pound Italian loaf, and he knew his friends and neighbors would enjoy a little taste of the Old Country.
As initial requests turned quickly into standing weekly orders, Mariano focused his attention on growing his business, devising a home-delivery route that he could fulfill in the early morning hours before going to work. He finally left the construction business behind in 1960.
A fire in 1961 all but destroyed his brother’s business, compelling Mariano to buy an existing business, Campagna Bakery, in 1962.
Over the next few years, he continued to build his client base by selling Italian and French breads through retail sales and home delivery. Meanwhile, his brother Carmen re-opened Turano Bakery, bringing their other brother, Eugenio, in as his partner and manager.
Renato, Tony and Giancarlo fondly recall coming home from school to find the family station wagon stuffed to the gills with bread for afternoon deliveries.
Though the brothers went to different high schools — with Renato and Tony going to St. Mel’s in Chicago and Giancarlo attending St. Joseph’s in Westchester — they were bound together by the family business.
“During those early years, we all did the same things. We ran home deliveries, we worked in the bakery making bread, we sold, we delivered, we were electricians, we were floor sweepers, we were oven loaders and chefs. We did everything,” Giancarlo explains.
After Eugenio assumed full control of Turano Bakery, he and Mariano decided to join forces in 1965, merging their businesses into one bakery in 1967 and calling it Campagna-Turano, the name under which the company is still incorporated.
“It became evident that my father and uncle had been trying to serve the same clientele, and they decided that they would make better partners than competitors,” says Renato. “It turned out to be a very wise decision because they consolidated operations, leaving a lot of room to expand the business.”
That same year, Campagna-Turano moved to Berwyn, still the site of the company’s headquarters, while initiating home delivery across the Chicago area. In the beginning, the plant occupied a modest 2,000 square feet with a maximum output of 200 loaves a day.
A year later, the company went after the wholesale market, launching a successful line of pre-cooked, pan-style frozen pizzas, named Mamma Susi’s after the family’s beloved matriarch, Assunta.
“We’ve always managed to stay one step ahead of our customers’ needs,” Tony says. “To maintain the level of quality that has brought us success over the years, we’ve always found it necessary to expand.”
The company quickly built a reputation as a quality vendor, and its wholesale business began to steadily rise, thanks in part to the aggressive marketing efforts of Renato, Tony and Giancarlo.
In 1984, Turano expanded its Berwyn headquarters into a 100,000-square-foot production facility that operated seven days a week, and produced more than 120 varieties of breads and rolls.
The plant was later expanded by an additional 85,000 square feet with the addition of several artisan bread lines. The icing on the cake was applied in 2004, when the retail shop at the Berwyn facility was re-opened under the name Mamma Susi Bakeshop.
Anticipating even greater growth from the launch of its par-baked line of wholesale goods, Turano expanded again in 1994, this time building a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot plant in Bolingbrook, Ill.
The Bolingbrook plant was eventually expanded to 220,000 square feet to allow for production and national distribution of frozen bread products.
To better serve its growing national clientele, the brothers recently opened a pair of 100,000-plus-square-foot facilities in two southern states: Turano Georgia Bread in Villa Rica in 2008 and Turano Florida Bun in Orlando in 2009.
“These bakeries take Turano to the next level, allowing the next generation to be able to grow the business,” Tony observed at the time.
“And it brings us to a different part of the country, helping our products and brands become better known,” Giancarlo added.
“Our purpose is to serve our customers no matter where they’re at, and we have customers all over the country,” Renato concluded. “That’s the expansion program we designed.”
The Turano plants house some of the most cutting-edge technology available in the wholesale baking industry today, mostly imported from Europe, which the Turanos visit often to glean new processes and remain a leader in the industry.
Today, 90 percent of the company’s business is wholesale, and 10 percent retail, with more than 5,000 Midwest restaurants, grocery stores and other outlets being serviced by 100 truck routes.
All told, the Turano product line now consists of more than 400 types of breads and other baked goods. Among them are Italian, French, and artisan bread and rolls; Mamma Susi pizzas; and high-speed bun and sliced breads for both grocery and foodservice industries.
The company’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed by the industry, with both major trade publications — Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery and Baking & Snack — hailing Turano Baking Co. as Wholesale Bakery of the Year.
Through it all, the business has remained completely family-owned and operated, with Renato serving as chairman, Tony as president, and Giancarlo as vice president of sales and marketing. And the third generation of Turanos is well positioned to uphold the company’s tradition of excellence.
A carefully crafted plan of succession has Giancarlo II currently serving as national sales manager; Joseph as director of operations-Midwest; Anthony as information systems director; Mario as marketing director and Lisa as vice president of legal.
“We’re implementing this plan gradually, and our fathers are very supportive of it,” Giancarlo II explains. “They want to see it succeed.”
The next generation has fully embraced the philosophy that has been handed down from grandfather to sons to them.
“QSV2 has always been our motto, which stands for Quality, Service, Value and Variety,” Joseph explains. “The motto was coined by our dads for the company’s 25th anniversary, and since then, we have been living and operating by it. Customers and family always come first, and we have the best role models you can imagine.”
“Our fathers have taken the business across the country, from crust-to-crust, so-to-speak,” Lisa laughs. “When my grandfather purchased the bakery in Berwyn, he opened it with the intention of meeting neighborhood demand. He truly was a visionary, but I don’t think he could have predicted what this bakery was going to become.”
Renato credits his father with maintaining the unity required to scale the heights. “It was quite a feat on his part to be able to keep the kids together and give them a future,” he says. “He used to always say, ‘I may have started the bakery, but my kids made an industry out of it.'”
The success Mariano’s family has achieved has, in turn, supported the company’s extensive charity work. The Turano Family Foundation provides donations to countless worthy causes, including the Greater Chicago Food Depository, research for juvenile diabetes, scholarships for Catholic schools, and foundations that give aid to the inner city, among many others.
The Turanos are also pillars of the Chicago-area Italian-American community, donating selflessly over the decades to Villa Scalabrini, the Italian Cultural Center, Società San Francesco di Paola, the Calabresi in America Organization, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and Casa Italia, to name just a few.
“We’re in a situation where we can give back to the community something the community has given us over the years,” Renato says. “We were fortunate enough to have some success, and at this point, sharing some of the benefits is a great feeling.”
The brothers have earned a host of honors for their generosity over the decades. And in 2003, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans earned the coveted Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian of the Year Award, which is given annually by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans to members of the community who best personify the spirit of our late, great archbishop.
“It was quite an honor,” Renato recalls. “Nobody can equal the humanitarian spirit of Cardinal Bernardin, and just to be mentioned in the same breath was a humbling experience.”
The Turanos’ willingness to lend a helping hand is rooted in the challenges of the immigrant experience, Tony says. “We didn’t forget where we come from,” he explains. “We know the struggles that our parents’ generation endured and we were glad to build on the foundation they built for us. We have close ties to the community and we have a lot of respect for its leaders and members.”
One of the family’s proudest moments came in 2006, when Renato Turano began a two-year term as the first senator to represent the Italian citizens of North and Central America in the Italian Parliament. The magnitude of the event didn’t hit home, though, until the freshman representative arrived for his first day on the job.
“When I was a young man, my father always instilled in me that I should maintain my relations with Italy at all times, and especially that I should maintain my ties to the Italian language,” Renato says. “By his way of thinking, I might have to return to Italy one day, and I might even have to work there.
“So there I am, walking down the corridors of the Italian Parliament with the guards calling me by name, and my eyes are filling with tears as I think about how proud my father would have been,” he continues. “He was right — I did return to Italy to work — but he never could have imagined in his wildest dreams that I would be returning as a senator.”
While success has been considerable and sweet, the three brothers still look back at those early years fondly. “We had a wonderful time,” Giancarlo says. “It was the best time for all of us. Even today, we have a great time being in business together. We all work hard, we’re all driven, and we all seem to have the same goals and ideals.”
So what’s the secret of the company’s meteoric rise? Each brother explains it differently.
“Turano stays ahead of the curve by continuously looking at our customers’ changing needs and satisfying them through innovation, research and development,” Tony says.
“Success isn’t so much a destination as it is an ongoing effort,” Giancarlo adds. “There is one word that exemplifies what we are all about and that word is ‘better,’ because it identifies the fact that we will always work to make progress, that the quest for success is truly never ending.”
“There’s no great secret to our success,” Renato concludes. “We’ve been true to the traditions and principles upon which my father founded the company a half a century ago.”