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Overbrook bakery closes, blames city soda tax

CC Orlando's on Lebanon Avenue had opened in 1948.

CC Orlando & Sons Bakery, 6540 Lebanon Ave.
CC Orlando & Sons Bakery, 6540 Lebanon Ave.Read moreANTHONY VOCI JR.

CC Orlando & Sons, which baked countless wedding and holy communion cakes and pastries since its founding on an Overbrook corner in 1948, closed after business Sunday.

The Orlando family cited not only the challenges of the baking business in these days of ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts shops and 24-hour supermarkets but the city's 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages and a recent rise in property assessments.

"The soda tax was the kill shot," said Anthony Voci Jr., a grandson of Christopher Columbus "Chick" Orlando and now a lawyer in Philadelphia.

Chick Orlando started in the baking business with his father in the 1930s with a shop in West Philadelphia, and ran several shops in the city and Delaware County until he was killed by a drunken driver while making a delivery shortly before Christmas 1971. His sons David and Robert took over Orlando's.

The business' last owner, Tyler Orlando, 32, also a grandson, said business was off 60 percent since the soda tax went into effect Jan. 1 – a difficult situation for a low-margin business. Orlando said his customers simply crossed the nearby city line to avoid the higher prices for juices, milk and other sweetened drinks typically purchased with doughnuts and pastries. "I'd see my customers in there," he said. "I don't blame them."

Orlando also said city health inspectors were "relentless" this year. During an inspection three days before Mother's Day, the report said, mice and droppings were noticed and the bakery was closed for five days. He said that the shop was clean and that he did not lose customers over the closing.

Sunday's crowd at the store, at Lebanon Avenue and Kenmore Road, was in tears over the closing and the layoff of the five workers, who were like family. Voci had to leave early, as he was overcome with emotion.

Orlando, who said he had found a job as a foreman for another bakery, had worked at Orlando's since he was about 7 years old. His father, Bob, now retired, put him to work using steel wool to clean the baked-on sugar from the pans. "He told me there was a pearl at the bottom of the sink under the pans," Orlando said. When young Tyler didn't find the pearl, his father told him that it must have fallen down the drain and to try again with more pans. Voci, who also worked there as a lad, said he had been told the same thing.

Pearl-diving, they called it.

Orlando said a developer was interested in the building. Meanwhile, he said he would give his pound cake recipe to Overbrook School for the Blind, a longtime customer.