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Milwaukee's Lopez Bakery on Historic Mitchell Street to close after 50 years

Cynthia Lopez co-owns Lopez Bakery with her husband, Jorge. The bakery will close after 50 years in business when the family sells the building.
Eddie Morales
Cynthia Lopez co-owns Lopez Bakery with her husband, Jorge. The bakery will close after 50 years in business when the family sells the building.

At Lopez Bakery, two shiny gold balloons float inside the window — reflecting the sidewalk of Historic Mitchell Street. The balloons are the numbers 5 and 0 — representing the 50th anniversary of one of the first Hispanic bakeries in the city. Displayed on that same window is a sign listing the building for sale.

Cynthia Lopez has co-owned the business with her husband, Jorge, since she married into the Lopez family 27 years ago. Lopez says the bakery has faced closures before, but it stayed open with support from the community. Now, Lopez says family health issues and financial woes are among the reasons why it’s time to say goodbye to the business. She looks forward to spending more time with her family. She says this year has been tough.

"We had financial problems," Lopez says. "We had problems with equipment going down. Then, we had quite a few deaths in the family including one of our founders — my mother-in-law. Mrs. Lopez had passed away the day after Mother’s Day."

The bakery has served customers at several locations over the years. It’s been on Mitchell Street since 1998. Lopez shares one of her favorite memories from the bakery.

"Just sitting here where I’m sitting right now and looking out the bakery window," she recalls. "When we first opened up in ’98, seeing all of the people go by, it was like the world was just going by because there was so many different kinds of cultures."

She shares some of the Facebook comments from the bakery’s post about its closure.

"It was really nice to see how a lot of them said, ‘My mom and dad used to take me there.’ And my mother and father-in-law were so generous that they would give them cookies. If someone didn’t have money my mother and father-in-law would just give them bakery — here just take it. That’s how they were and that’s how we were brought up too."

Lopez says she asked her kids if they’d want to run the business.

"They grew up in this bakery," says Lopez. "This is their second home, they’ve seen everything we went through and they don’t really want to go down that route. We worked hard and so did they. So they’re like ‘Mom, dad I think we kind of want to go our own way.’ And I’m like OK that’s fine."

Longtime employee Lourdes Hernandez-Lopez has worked there for 20 years. She says more customers have been coming in since news of the closure spread.

"It’s a community, a family — a big one," says Hernandez-Lopez. "A lot of people are coming here. It’s busy, busy every day."

Just before the bakery closes for the day, first-time customers like Helen Johnson stops in. Rows of colorful pastries sit behind a glass display, including the customer favorite conchas and jelly-filled empanadas. Johnson details her order which includes corn bread, chocolate chip cookies and bread. Johnson wanted to show support for the bakery after hearing about its closure.

"You don’t like to see people go out of business," Johnson says.

Customer Kimberly Kuehneman also makes her first purchase. "I grabbed an empanada, a pecan cookie and a piece of coconut cake," says Kuehneman.

Kuehneman shares how she feels about the closure. "It’s sad because they’ve been around for so long," she says. "You want some place that’s been historic to the area to continue for the next generation. So, I think it’s sad that they’re closing." 

Kuehneman says she think she'll visit the bakery again in two weeks. Lopez Bakery will stay open until the family sells the building or the business. Lopez says the bakery will be open for Christmas.

"Pick up your tamales because we’re still going to keep selling," she says.Lopez hopes someone will buy the business and keep serving the Lopez’s recipes to south side Milwaukee customers.

Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.
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