Termini Bros. Bakery in South Philadelphia. (Ali Mohsen/Billy Penn)

When Joseph and Vincent Termini Jr. announced on social media a renovation to their bakery’s floor, it was primarily to inform customers of the upcoming temporary closure and mark one of the few changes the family-owned business has seen in its 102-year history.

They weren’t expecting the flurry of comments they received. People sent notes asking for pieces of the tiles that had been pulled up, citing a range of personal connections — from early visits with grandparents and first tastings of cannoli to traditional Christmas Eve stops. One former employee shared fond memories of cleaning the floors after hours in the 70s.

The response has been “incredibly humbling,” the brothers told Billy Penn, and ultimately turned the two-week demolition process into a salvaging project, an effort that fits firmly into the Termini ethos.

Since opening its doors in 1921 and more so after moving across the street to its current location 17 years later, Termini Bros. Bakery has been preserved like a time capsule. Much of the equipment in use dates back to the original opening, and more “recent” additions come along the lines of kettles from the WWII era.

That focus on “preserving our history,” Joseph believes, is behind the long running success of his family’s business.

“Philadelphia has been changing and evolving over the last 50 years,” he said. “But one of the things in this city that has remained constant is this bakery.”

It’s why he and his brother held off as long as they could on a floor overhaul. The cracks, although not widely apparent, were becoming obstacles for the wheeled racks, and sinkholes were forming in the bedding under the tile, causing a liability.

It’s also why the search to find an appropriate replacement took six months, with the brothers determined to track down flooring as close as possible to the original rectangular black and white tiles with a pinwheel design.

The old black-and-white pinwheel tiles at Termini Bros. Bakery in South Philadelphia. (Ali Mohsen/Billy Penn)

They ultimately couldn’t find a perfect match, so the new tiles, which they’re excited to unveil, are instead circular, but still feature the pinwheel design.

The flagship store is set to reopen on July 24. Work is currently ahead of schedule, even though the process has been carried out “with kid gloves,” Joseph said, to ensure the original wall trimmings and floor-level radiator panels remain untouched.

It’s as much for the brothers and their desire to preserve all they can of the original design as it is for the customers who have come to rely on the bakery for its history of consistency, and who have expressed sadness at even a necessary change.

The front room at Termini Bros. Bakery, with a bare floor before new tiles are installed. (Ali Mohsen/Billy Penn)

“We know how important we are to the community,” Joseph said, citing by example the widespread efforts to find a replacement for a broken cannoli machine component two Christmases ago. “And we take that very seriously.”

Until the relaunch, customers can pick up most of Termini’s staple items at its original location across the street, now Nonna & Pop’s, a pastry and ice cream shop that stands as a homage to the brothers’ parents.

As for the recently removed flooring, the brothers are working on a few ideas. They’re hoping to give them out as gifts to people who request them, they said; tokens of mutual gratitude and shared histories.

“I mean, you’re not talking about floor tiles,” said Joseph. “You’re talking about people’s memories and preserving those memories, and respecting that appreciation for the business. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Equipment from a century ago is still in use at Termini Bros. Bakery in South Philadelphia. (Ali Mohsen/Billy Penn)
Termini Bros. Bakery in South Philadelphia. (Ali Mohsen/Billy Penn)

Ali Mohsen is Billy Penn's food and drink reporter.