Though he would end up following in his father’s footsteps and become one of Amsterdam’s most popular and most gifted bakers, Salvatore “Sam” Pepe could have been just about anything he wanted to be. But above all else he was a good son and when his family needed him to keep their Southside landmark bakery going strong, he answered their call and spent the rest of his working days making sure Pepe’s Bakery remained the baked goods institution it had grown to become under his father, Ralph.
For thousands of Amsterdamians, stopping at Pepe’s on Broad Street for a loaf of their famous Italian bread was as much a Sunday morning ritual as going to church. Young Sam had grown up working there. He joined the US Army in 1943 and spent his war years with the Fifth Army’s Special Service Engineers, serving in both the European and Pacific Theaters. When he was discharged in 1946, he went to Siena College and earned a degree in biology. He also had the mind of an engineer and was a whiz at fixing anything mechanical. GE recognized his ability and hired him to work in their Rocket Propulsion Lab. That’s when he was called back to the family business.
At first he teamed with his brothers Al and Ralph Jr. to run the Bakery. Then in 1972, Sam took over as sole proprietor. He and his amazing wife Geraldine were the proud and loving parents of five boys and the entire family was put to work in the business. In 1986, two of Sam’s sons Ralph and Paul assumed ownership of the bakery and Sam retired to the family’s well kept home on Amsterdam’s Princeton Street. Perhaps sort of retired was a more accurate description for that stage of his life because he continued to go to the bakery just about every day to help out his boys and fix anything in the place that needed fixing.
His marriage to Geraldine lasted 60 years. And if you ask his 5 boys, Sam was as good a father as he had been a son. When he died in October 2012, Amsterdam lost one of its finest citizens. Happy Birthday Sam!