For millions of Americans, the holidays are a time to celebrate with family, friends and plenty of sweet treats. On a special holiday edition of TODAY All Day's "Family Style," Al Roker explores three unique, family-owned businesses that have made the holidays sweeter in their local communities for generations.
Don Paco López Panaderia brings a taste of Mexico to Brooklyn
Don Paco López Panaderia has been serving up fresh Mexican pastries for decades. The bakery goes back three generations to Miguel López's grandfather, a baker from Acatlán de Osorio, Mexico, who taught the trade to his son, Francisco López.
When Francisco immigrated to New York in the 1980s, he worked as a dishwasher for several years before opening the bakery with help from his children. Today, the Brooklyn shop continues to bring loyal customers through the door for its many sweet and savory items.
"They're gonna treat you like family," customer Magda Navarro told TODAY.
While the bakery has just one name in the title, it's a family affair — and a big one at that. The panaderia is run by Miguel Lopez and his seven siblings, their 86- and 88-year-old parents and the extended family. When December hits, it's all hands on deck because one of their most popular treats, Rosca de Reyes (or "King's Bread") reigns supreme, even over the business's bestselling conchas.
The confection is central to the Catholic food traditions of King's Day, the holiday that marks the three wise men's visit to Jesus Christ in the manger. It's celebrated all over the world, from Mexico to New Orleans — the religious roots of which date back to Medieval France.
The cake is a traditional sweet bread decorated with candied fruits like cherries and sweetened green papaya, with a few little plastic baby dolls baked into the center. The holiday brings members of the family together from all across the country to help meet the demand for the special bread. Most years, around 30 family members come to New York to help fill orders of up to 2,000 Rosca de Reyes a day.
"We all get together, sometimes after not seeing each other for a long time. We all join in on a very special and blessed day for all," Anel Mejia, Miguel's sister, said.
"Everything that we make, everything that we bake, or cook in this place, we do it with pride, with so much love," Miguel told Al.
Termini Brothers Bakery dishes up cannoli in the City of Brotherly Love
No one knows cannoli quite like the bakers at Termini Brothers Bakery, a Philadelphia institution that's been serving up the Italian confection for 100 years. While this brother-run family business has survived the Great Depression and a global pandemic, there's no challenge bigger than meeting the cannoli demand during the holiday season.
"The Super Bowl for us every year is Christmas Eve," bakery co-owner Vincent Termini told TODAY.
The tradition has been going on for decades. Every Christmas Eve, people line up outside Termini Brothers in the middle of the night, many with food and chairs, to wait for the doors to open on Christmas morning. When they do, at 6 a.m. the Termini family welcomes everyone with warmth, hugs, kisses and Christmas music.
"I mean, people drive from Baltimore, they drive from Boston," Joseph Termini added. "We've even had people fly in from California to be here, to be in that line."
For Termini Brothers, filling orders of around 4,500 cannoli a day isn't just good business, it's about honoring family. The bakery first opened in 1921 by the current owners' great-grandfather, Giuseppe Termini. What began as a tiny kitchen became a Philadelphia icon known for its cookies, cakes and, of course, cannoli. It grew to a business that could be passed down from father to son for three generations. The bakery now has five locations throughout the Philadelphia metro area and ships sweets nationwide.
"Hearing my grandfather's story — about how much passion he had for these recipes being that they came from his home town in Sicily — you know, it forces you to realize that this isn't just a product. You know? This is a legacy," Joseph told TODAY. "And it needs to be handled with respect and care."
Logan's old-fashioned candy canes garner new fans on TikTok
In Ontario, California, Logan's Candies has been making its signature candy canes by hand since 1933. Each winter, the shop draws a big crowd for candy-making demonstrations open to the public. Now, that crowd has gone virtual. As many traditional food businesses continued to struggle during the pandemic, Logan's Candies went viral this summer for its eye-catching TikTok videos, amassing over 5 million followers in a few months. But the close-knit relationships that drive this this sweet business are about much more than its success connecting on social media.
In 1970s, Jerry Rowley, who started making candy canes behind the counter at Logan's when he was just 12 years old, bought the family-owned candy store. Now he and his wife, Susi, run the place, along with their daughter Abby. With Abby's help, the Rowleys have been able to revitalize an old-fashioned tradition.
"She came to me and said, 'Dad, there's this social media out there called TikTok and I thought we should get in.' And I didn't really know what that was," Rowley told TODAY.
"Within about 72 hours, we had over 25 million views," he continued. "And it was just unbelievable. We couldn't believe it took off like that. It's just been amazing for the store. We've seen a big growth in our shipping, and even just people coming in."
While the internet craze is new, Rowley and his family have been sticking to the traditional recipes Logan's Candies has been using for 87 years. While the shop sells more than 200 treats in the store, their candy canes are the most popular year-round. One in particular, named for the Rowley's first daughter, Hannah, who passed away at age 8 from leukemia, is dearest to their hearts.
"They're the burgundy and white. They're beautiful, and they're very special, and we made them the year she was born, not knowing that she would only have a very short life," Susi told TODAY. "Hannah loved the candy store. And she just loved sharing the candy with everybody."
The Rowleys' love for Hannah is apparent everywhere you look in the store and her parents continue honoring her memory by doing what they love.
"We realize we're part of Christmas for everybody," Rowley said. "So many families coming in 20, 30 years in a row. You're watching the grandkids grow up. The kids grow up. It's just amazing. And they just keep coming back to make it a family tradition."