This will be the last Christmas you can buy your cannoli, pignoli cookies and torroni from Ninni’s Bakery.
The Italian bake shop, an Akron institution for more than 70 years, will close Dec. 31 at 2 p.m., owner Tony Ninni said Tuesday.
Ninni, 62, said he is nearing retirement age, and his sales figures have dropped to the point where it’s no longer feasible to keep the shop going, selling the Italian tortes and pastries that are the stars of his bakery cases: cassata cakes, almond macaroons, pizzelles and numerous other Italian cookies and pastries.
His clientele has been disappearing from Akron, he said. Customers who kept the business going for so many years have died off or are in the late 80s. While their children were loyal, their grandchildren either have left the area or have no interest in ethnic pastries, favoring American-style treats that can be found in the grocery store.
When his wedding cake business began to decline, Ninni said he knew the time had come. Younger brides want cupcake towers and layers covered with fondant decorations, not the rum-soaked sponge cake layers filled with custard and fruit that were the showpiece of many wedding receptions for an older generation.
“We’re a nostalgia bakery,” he said.
The specialty desserts that Ninni’s produces don’t come cheap. His popular macaroons are made with almond paste and pignoli, which run about $13 a pound. Ninni’s makes the chocolate and vanilla custard in its signature cassata cakes from scratch. His torroni nougat candy studded with pistachios and almonds is made on site, the way his uncle taught him.
“These cookies are expensive to produce,” he said. Eventually, the bottom line caught up to him.
Ninni’s grandfather, Anthony Ninni, started the bakery out of his home in Akron’s North Hill in the 1930s, catering to the Italian immigrants who populated the neighborhood.
In 1945, the shop found its home in a rented building on East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue, where Ninni’s father and uncle, Frank and Vince Ninni, ran it for years. In July 1997, when the landlord refused to upgrade the building, the city condemned it and Ninni’s was forced out. By then, Frank had retired, and Vince, 69 at the time, decided the forced closure would mean his retirement, too.
Tony Ninni was living in North Carolina and told his uncle he wanted to move back and take over the business. Ninni relocated the bakery to 1155 E. Tallmadge Ave. and reopened the shop on his birthday, Dec. 21, 1997.
Ninni said he’s leaving on a happy note, grateful for the 16 years he’s had at the new location, and for the many customers who have allowed him to bake cakes for the most important occasions in their families — weddings, first communions, graduations and even funerals.
“We won’t be reopening,” he said.
Ninni said he expects to find employment in the food industry for the next few years until he’s ready to retire.
He urged customers to redeem any gift certificates between now and the end of the year, and most importantly, he is encouraging customers who want anything for Christmas to place their orders early at 330-634-0060, preferably by Dec. 16.
“We have been blessed to have customers like you, and this, our last Christmas and New Year with you, will be a memorable and heartfelt one,” he said.