DEARBORN – When Virginia Errigo rings up a sale and makes change for customers in the community store at Oakwood Common senior living community, it’s second nature for her.
Uneasy talking about herself, it’s not unusual for longtime Dearborn residents to soon recognize the petite lady behind the cash register. They know Errigo better as the founder and baker of Capri Bakery, 4832 Greenfield Road.
Born as the youngest of Hugo and Algeria Imperi’s five children, it was Errigo’s father, Hugo Imperi, who started Detroit’s beloved Roma Bakery in 1930. Roma was famous for its aromatic breads, pizza and the first pepperoni rolls in Detroit. Imperi baked and sold bread wholesale to restaurants and markets, along with making deliveries to local homes.
Business was so good that he was able to expand and sell his baked goods retail.
Like her siblings, Errigo learned the business early.
“I started helping at the age of 10,” she said. “I was the ‘jumper’ from the bread truck and delivered bread directly to the doors of customers’ homes. I also learned how to make the dough. Those were the days when we didn’t measure anything. Everything was made in batches.”
The bakery is also where she met her husband, John Errigo, who was a regular customer of Roma. An employee of Ford Motor Co., he helped her start Capri Bakery in 1973.
“We opened for business on Dec. 3 and it was packed,” Errigo said. “It never slowed down.”
Only six months before, she had helped her brother Gino Imperi start the Italia Bakery, 5717 Schaefer. He opened his doors at Easter, another very busy season.
With four children at home, the Errigo family kept an activity-filled schedule with Virginia arriving at the bakery by 3 a.m. to start making the dough.
In addition to the Capri bread, customer favorites were pepperoni rolls and fresh made pizzas that people took home to bake.
Errigo is quick to point out that while her dad used Romano cheese on his pizzas, she used mozzarella.
“Every day I’d make a different kind of pizza,” she said.
Keeping up with a demanding schedule, Errigo worked until she was 70.
“I hadn’t even thought about retirement,” she said.
She and husband, John, were married for 63 years until he died in 2014. Soon after, she moved to Oakwood Common to be close to home and their children, including twin sons Gary and Greg Errigo, daughter Annette Boccarossa, and son John Jr., the baker who carries on the family legacy at Capri Bakery with his wife, Ronda, and son, Caleb, the fourth generation.
No longer needing to get up each day before dawn, Errigo now finds time to volunteer at the community store, play bunco and bingo, and socialize with friends.
“Sometimes I struggle remembering certain events, but I’ve always been good with numbers,” said Errigo, who doesn’t need a calculator to give customers the correct change.
People closest to her would also likely tell you that she’s never forgotten how to make her famous dough and pepperoni rolls.