A Bakery's Journey From Darkness To Light


But this is a father and son who see the bright side of things. Sitting under a large photo of St. Louis Cardinals Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial, Charlie Nardi said he's "been really lucky this year," with his Cards and his Green Bay Packers both winning championships.

Even though Craig's Glastonbury house — where his parents live — was without power for much of the week with massive tree damage in the yard, and even though they had slept maybe three hours a night, the atmosphere was oddly upbeat Friday morning.

Drivers came and went after delivering Strano bread. "Tomorrow night," Charlie Nardi told one of them, "maybe we'll be lucky."

A customer who lives in South Windsor stopped by for a pick-up. "I have hard rolls I can give you instead of hamburg rolls," Craig said.

The customer, Scott Marshall, who owns the Yarde House in South Hadley, Mass., took a look. "Those are fine," he said.

They talked about generators, but Marshall knew perfectly well it would cost too much to buy back-up power for a baking operation with a huge walk-in freezer and ovens the size of vehicles. "What are you going to do, get a $50,000 fuel cell in here?" he asked rhetorically.

As noon came and went, Craig and Charlie Nardi showed more anger toward CL&P. Nearby homes and businesses had power restored, but not them. Craig talked with a woman at CL&P, who said the priority was to restore neighborhoods.

"You mean to tell me they couldn't have come up here and gotten these businesses up?" Charlie exclaimed. "There's no trees here."

That's the feeling at a lot of businesses across the central and western part of the state, and one firm — The Asylum LLC, a Canton hairstylist — filed a lawsuit against CL&P Friday in Superior Court in Hartford, charging negligence.

All of that will be sorted out in the months to come. On Friday, the Nardis just wanted to get back to regular work, a 7-day-a-week grind.

How strong is their work ethic? In 1968, on the night after Martin Luther King's assassination, an angry crowd approached Nardi's, then located near the intersection of Main Street and Albany Avenue. "My driver comes back, he says 'Charlie, you better go out there. I've got a problem. These guys want to tip over the truck.'"

He approached a leader of the crowd. "I said, 'Let me tell you something. My father died a couple of years ago and I couldn't close the bakery. I'm going to work today.' He looked at me and he said, 'You're all right, white man.'

"We were part of the neighborhood."

Years later, the bakery left for East Hartford, not because of the neighborhood, he said, but for a larger building. The move to South Windsor in 2001 ended most of the retail business because it's a commercial building in a commercial district.

And there they were, three men glumly dumping pizza trays when a loud, dull thud sounded at 12:40 p.m. One second later, the lights went on.

Craig raised his arms. "Oh my God, we got power!"

"Oh, thank God!"

"Jesus Christ!"

"Call in everybody," Pfeiffer said, naming a key man — Victor. "You've got his number."

Craig checked and the phone was still dead. A minute later: "The phones are working! We're back in business!"

Charlie entered a newly bright freezer room, still not emptied of bread. "I'm very appreciative to all my customers for understanding, and being good," he said slowly.

The financial crisis was far from over. But the ovens would soon be on. "In about an hour, we're all gonna be sweating," Craig Nardi said. "But I don't care, I'm so happy."

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