[EDITOR’S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Papa’s Bakery and Sandwiches, led by owner Jeremy Morales, specializes in fresh bread, sandwiches and baked goods and aims to appeal to both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans alike in the Valley.
“When you eat a certain food, it brings back that nostalgia from when you ate that [previously]. [Eating Puerto Rican dishes brings] me back to Puerto Rico when I was a kid. The bread and, you know, the food and stuff,” he said.
Some of Papa’s Bakery and Sandwiches popular items include pan sobao, a soft sweet bread; pan de agua or “water bread;” pastelillos, a meat-filled turnover similar to empanadas; and quesitos, a pastry with a sweet vanilla cream cheese and a honey and sugar glaze.
Additionally, Papa’s Bakery and Sandwiches serves breakfast sandwiches and authentically sourced sandwiches, like bacon, egg and cheese; Tripleta (triple meat); and the Cubano. All are served on homemade bread.
Morales said all cakes baked on-premise feature traditional flavors like flan, tres leches and other Puerto Rican pastries.
“For the season, we have the Pumpkin [flan and tres leches]. … So we’ll make different versions of those items,” he said.
The Morales family has owned various Puerto Rican-style restaurants in the Mahoning Valley for nearly three decades spearheaded by Jeremy’s father Carmelo Morales, including Papa’s Puerto Rican Cuisine in Campbell.
The family moved to Youngstown from the Bronx, N.Y. and originally specialized in a combination of Italian and Puerto Rican dishes.
“When we moved from New York to Youngstown, we opened up a New York-style pizza shop and Puerto Rican food. So it was kind of a weird mixture. It was the lifestyle my dad had, with our culture being Puerto Rican, but him working and growing up in the pizza business with [Italian people]. He kind of put them together,” Morales said.
Now, Jeremy Morales is the next generation to bring authentic flavors to the area with Papa’s Bakery and Sandwiches at 669 McCartney Road. It was established three years ago with the help of his mother, Jeanette Morales.
Although Jeremy Morales never intended on working in the family business, he was determined to help his family bring their dream of having a bakery into the digital age by helping with advertising, technology and bookkeeping. Eventually, Jeremy took over as sole owner.
“My mom and dad ... always wanted to open up a bakery. like a real authentic bakery like they have in Puerto Rico and in New York,” he said. “So with [my mom’s] recipes and our family traveling to Puerto Rico to learn some things that we didn’t know, we created the bakery.”
For Morales, National Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate his heritage while sharing his culture with the community through food. National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 in the United States began on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15.
“We take pride in our business, our heritage, and the food that we provide with the service that we provide at the bakery,” he said. “It’s just spreading the knowledge [of] our culture to everybody. There’s a lot of places around that you can go get a burger and fries anywhere, but you can’t get our type of food just anywhere.”
Aside from the food itself, Morales said his staff is the heartbeat of the bakery.
“We are a complete team. I take a very different approach [compared to] a lot of other places that I’ve worked for before. We’re a close-knit family, and everybody’s on the same page. So if you visit our bakery, you will have a 0% chance that you will get bad service,” Morales said.
The bakery’s “family” will be growing soon, with an upcoming expansion planned in the next year. Morales told Mahoning Matters he plans to move to a bigger location once the bakery’s lease is up next year.
Papa’s Bakery and Sandwiches is open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.