Crest Bakery, an institution in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood, likely won’t be around much longer.

A sale of the property is expected to close in the “very near future,” Jennifer Fernandez, a vice president at Hoff & Leigh commercial real estate in Fairlawn, said Thursday.

Rafael Apaestegui, who has co-owned the 80-year-old bakery since the early 1990s, said he plans to stay open until the business is sold. He declined to say how long that likely would be.

A rumor that the bakery — which cut back its days and hours of operation last year — was closing in two to three weeks spread on social media, apparently beginning with a customer's post on his Facebook page.

This customer also said a laundromat will be located at the site at 888 N. Main St. in North Hill, a historic first stop for Italian immigrants and now southeast Asian refugees. Fernandez declined to say what type of business planned to move in, but Apaestegui said it's not a bakery.

The fate of the vintage sign boasting the word "Crest" in red script is unclear.

The reaction on social media, with people lamenting the closing of the business, surprised Apaestegui.

He’s had a Hoff & Leigh "for sale" notice posted inside the front entrance for months, he noted Thursday, motioning toward the flier.

He said he’d wished that as many people had consistently supported the bakery as were fretting about its demise.

“If they had continued coming [regularly] … we wouldn’t be here now,” he said.

He’s struggled to find bakers, while also fighting declining sales.

Longtime signature items such as the Bump Cake — four layers of cake filled with chocolate buttercream icing and dollops of buttercream icing on top — are still made. But long gone are the days when customers would take a number to get in line for service.

For more than a year, Apaestegui has allowed a friend to park his taco truck in the parking lot.

Several years ago, he said, he purchased three abandoned houses next to the bakery and turned them into rental housing in hopes of making the area around the bakery more inviting. He also purchased a home across the street and made it a rental.

Thursday, regular customers said the store sells out of a lot of items before noon on many days, as Apaestegui has been pulling back on how much is baked to avoid waste.

By 11 a.m., with some of the patrons coming because they had seen social media posts, the store’s display cases were empty, save two oatmeal cookies, a dozen or so chocolate chip cookies, about a dozen small chocolate-covered sugar cookies and two loaves of Italian bread.

“They have the best cream sticks anywhere. Better than the Krispy Kreme,” said Cindie Slater, 67.

“I had to call at 8:30 this morning to make sure they held two for me — because when I come, everything is gone,” said Slater, who lived near the bakery before moving to Wayne County. She now stops by when running errands in the area.

Barbara Collett, 70, is one of the bakery's few employees.

"I love the customers and I have met so many nice people," said Collett, who works behind the counter. "I'll get some of their [phone] numbers" before the place closes.

Laura Ciriano-Berry, who lived in North Hill as a child and now lives outside Toledo, was in town to check on some property she owns. She made a point to stop by the shop after she saw a Facebook post.

"You'd have to take a number because it was so crowded," she said, recalling her parents taking her to the store years ago to get cinnamon bread and other treats.

Michael Orock, 70, a retired cook who lives near the bakery, came in to buy a loaf of Italian bread. With grocery stores increasing their bakery offerings, small shops have a hard time making it, he said.

"You don't see meat markets on the corner like you used to," he noted.

Scott Bailey, who does much of the baking and is Apaestegui's partner in the bakery, told a reporter for WKSU radio in 2015 that the competition had cut into business. He said the influx of refugees from southeast Asia into the area hadn't resulted in an increase in customers. Bailey was not available for comment Thursday.

It's a tough break for a business with its own legacy of immigration.

Crest began in 1939, with Vitale Pallotta, who had moved from Italy to Akron with his family in 1925, taking over as owner-operator in 1941. He ran the place for more than 30 years, according to Beacon Journal files. His father and brother, Palmer, founded the business while Vitale worked at the old Kaase's bakery in Akron.

Michael Pallotta, of the Crest Bakery Pallottas, runs Pallotta's Pastries in Cuyahoga Falls.

In 1977, after Vitale Pallotta died, Wendel Lautenbach, an immigrant from Germany, and Julius Batu, an immigrant from Hungary, took over the business in 1977.

Apaestegui, a native of Peru, bought the bakery from Batu, his father-in-law, and Lautenbach. That was shortly after he came to the United States from France, where he had had studied French after getting his accounting degree in Peru.

Crest is open 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to noon Sunday.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.