Cristaudo’s brings back treats, memories

By Gus Bode

Cristaudo’s Bakery is back in the family, a fact made clear by the framed letter on the front counter.

“You can kind of tell I’ve been around the business for a long time,” owner Rachel Cristaudo said about the letter.

She said she recently found the letter, which she wrote to her mother as a kid, shoved inside a cookbook. In it, she wrote that she hoped her mother was able to turn a profit in the baking business.

Advertisement

Leah Maciell, of Lincoln, prepares the ‘pink’ cookie Tuesday at Cristaudo’s off South Illinois Avenue. Maciell is one of four new owners of Cristaudo’s, which has had three different owners during the last five years. NATHAN HOEFERT | Daily Egyptian

“What little kid draws pictures of a buffet line, worries about … how much money you’re making on food and whether or not you’re going to get a break ever, ever again?” she said.

Cristaudo is now drawing on her long history with the business as owner of Cristaudo’s Bakery & Catering, which has been under different ownership since 2004. The doors at its new South Illinois Ave. location across from the Civic Center opened Oct. 28. Currently, baked goods are on the shelves, and carryout breakfast and lunch are on the way, with dining to follow.

Cristaudo’s parents, Lorenzo and Lucia Cristaudo, established Cristaudo’s at the Murdale Shopping Center in 1977. She said she pretty much grew up in the bakery since she was about six.

Years after Cristaudo’s became a Carbondale fixture, Rachel Cristaudo said she, her partner, Nick Stewart, and her mother planned on buying the bakery from her father to let him retire in 2000.

Then tragedy derailed those plans.

Lucia Cristaudo died in a car accident after taken hostage in a botched robbery at Midwest Cash, where she was manager.

Advertisement

Her death put the plans on hold, Rachel Cristaudo said, and Lorenzo Cristaudo ended up selling the store to someone else in 2004.

From there, Rachel Cristaudo and Stewart tried to buy it back, but plans fell through twice. When they were finally able to acquire it, the owners of Murdale Shopping Center had rented out the space to another bakery.

With the old location gone, she said they turned to the owners of the Kaleidoscope on South Illinois Ave. to rent some space.

They ended up with the whole building.

“Now we have a giant, beautiful building to fill, and it gives you all kinds of ideas of what you could do,” she said.

After acquiring the building, they spent more than a year getting ready for business, Rachel Cristaudo said. That was twice as long as she expected it to take, she said.

While the biggest delay was money-wrangling, the old building needed a lot of renovations, Rachel Cristaudo said. She said updates included new plumbing, electrical work, and painting and said they plan redoing the bathrooms.

“It’s all about the bathrooms,” Stewart said.

He said they should take a couple of weeks to finish, and then the main dining room can be completed.

After the long process of renovation, Rachel Cristaudo said the opening is exciting.

“It’s like a homecoming for me,” she said.

And Cristaudo’s isn’t just a bakery now. In the front of the building is the 6Pence Gift Shop. It offers a number of trinkets and works by local artists, she said, including work by her father and vintage items from her mother’s old store, Finders Keepers.

Rachel Cristaudo said they also plan on opening a gallery space in the upstairs apartments.

But of course, the main attraction is still the bakery, and Rachel  Cristaudo said the primary goal is to get people’s old favorites back on the shelves.

One favorite is the peak cookie, a pile of chocolate-covered cream on top of a piece of chocolate cake.

Co-owner Leah Maciell said she sold a peak cookie to a couple Saturday, and it was well-received.

“They were sitting outside eating it … the guy was actually like, screaming, ‘Oh my God, this is the best thing I’ve ever had,’” she said.

Stewart said the recipe is much more about how you make it, not the ingredients.

Rachel Cristaudo said that’s one reason having the bakery back in family ownership makes a difference. While she said the other owners did a good job with it, everyone does things differently.

“If you have five different people all making something with the same recipe, you’re going to have five different things,” she said.

However, the importance of having the bakery back in the family may be even simpler.

“I think it matters because that’s (Rachel’s) dad on the shirt,” Maciell said.

The recognizable logo, featuring a mustachioed Lorenzo Cristaudo, now adorns the side of the building.

Rachel Cristaudo said their first customer was another local man with an iconic mustache: Mayor Joel Fritzler.

Fritzler said he looked out his Civic Center office window and noticed the open sign on Cristaudo’s. He said he was going to be in the office for a long time that night, so he needed something to eat.

“They’ve got some evil stuff in there,” he said. “Cristaudo’s is going to be a great addition to downtown.”

Cristaudo said despite all the hard work, it’s being able to give people some pleasure that makes it worth it.

“It seriously gives us a lot of pride to know we’re making things that make people happy, and it totally sounds completely cliché … but it’s like, really though, it’s true,” she said.

The other perk to the job, like that letter on the counter, has to do with sentiment, she said.

“It’s funny to be making things that I remember as a kid, I remember as a teenager,” she said. “I remember different people who … worked there … I remember learning different parts and who taught me them, so as you just make a cream puff, you think about all these people and all of these different time periods, and it’s like that with every single thing we make. It’s not just making a cookie.”

 

Advertisement