There are no brothers now at Scialo Bros. Bakery. The business that’s held a place on Atwells Avenue on Federal Hill in Providence since 1916 has been owned and operated by sisters Carol Scialo Gaeta and Lois Scialo Ellis, who grew up living above the shop, since 1993.
When they talk about running a business that begins operating at 3 a.m., when the bread baking begins, they’re more than a team.
“Two?” said Gaeta. “We are one. One of us couldn’t do it without the other.”
They lived on the second floor, above the shop, when their father ran the bakery.
Their grandparents lived on the third floor. The bakery was always a part of their lives.
“I was out in the front working the register when I was 9 years old,” said Ellis.
But the sisters never intended to go into the bakery business.
“We went to college. We had other careers,” said Gaeta, who worked for several years as a medical secretary. Ellis worked as a teacher for 34 years and taught history at East Greenwich High School.
“I love history and majored in political science. In a different time, I would have loved to go to law school,” Ellis said. “But when we were raised, women were teachers, nurses or secretaries.”
Their career plans changed when their father died in 1993 at 103. He was ill for only a short time before his death, and had been involved in running the business from home. He left the business to his three daughters. One lives in Florida and wasn’t interested. So Gaeta and Ellis bought her out.
That’s when the work began. They had to do major upgrades, including moving the oil tank from underground to above ground. There was a fire from one of the big brick ovens and they had to shut down for a year to do repairs.
“It was very difficult for women to get a business loan in 1993,” said Ellis, who is the business manager, among other things, for the bakery. “We went to several places. We finally got a loan from Bank Rhode Island.”