First Minister Carwyn Jones salutes 175 years of baking in Wrexham

First Minister Carwyn Jones has sent his personal congratulations to the oldest family firm of craft bakers in Wales as they celebrate their 175th anniversary.

Wrexham-based Gerrards were founded by Mary Gerrard in 1838 and are still going strong with the sixth generation of the family at the helm.

The First Minister said: “There can be very, very few businesses in the UK with a record like this – it’s  an incredible milestone and all the more amazing that  the firm  has remained in the same family.

“Gerrards is very much an institution in North Wales where it has been serving local communities for decades as well as providing jobs for generations of families and I wish them every success in the future.”

In 2010 they took on six new stores following the demise of the Eccleston’s bakery when the owner David Eccleston retired.

They added shops in Bala, Corwen, Llangollen, Chirk, Gresford and Wrexham to their portfolio taking the number of outlets to 15 across North Wales and the Wirral.

The firm also has a fleet of eight mobile bakery shops that supply offices, factories and business parks in North Wales, Shropshire, Cheshire and the Wirral with freshly baked products.

According to Gerrards, one of the key ingredients in their success has been the expert advice and guidance they’ve had from Chartered Accountants Coxeys, who have offices in Wrexham and Saltney.

Michael Coxey has been their accountant since 1974 and their association with the firm stretches back even longer to the 1920s.

He was a guest of honour at a celebration where he helped cut a 175th birthday cake.

Michael said: “I am delighted to be here today to help celebrate this very special anniversary.

“Gerrards have a long proud tradition as high quality craft bakers and I am glad that we have been able to play a part in their enduring success.”

Philip Gerrard Jones is a fifth generation member of the family who started working in the bakery full-time in 1958 and was in charge for more than 30 years.

He and his wife, Claire, have passed on the baton to the next generation, their daughter Dawn van Rensburg and her husband, Dirk.

Philip paid tribute to the immense contribution made by Coxeys in general and Michael Coxey in particular.

He said: “Michael is not only a trusted expert advisor who has helped guide our business for many years but also a close family friend. Michael has a well-deserved reputation of really caring about his clients.”

According to Philip, the firm might not have come into existence except for a tragedy that befell the family.

Founder Mary Gerrard was a farmer’s daughter who married a printer called James Wimpenny.

She started baking and selling bread in Comberbach, near Northwich, to support the family after her husband went blind. The bakery moved to Wrexham in 1868.

Philip said: “I’m immensely proud of our history as the oldest family owned business in Wrexham and  the oldest family run bakery in Wales.

“Over the years we’ve not been frightened to change if we needed to change but the one constant throughout has been our absolute commitment to quality.

“We have some excellent local suppliers including a first class butcher – and anything we can buy locally, we do.

“We’re looking towards the future with confidence and I am delighted that Dawn and Dirk are now running the company.”

Dawn said the skill and the dedication of the firm’s  114 staff were an important part of their on-going success.

She added: “As a member of the sixth generation of the family, it’s a big thing for me to be involved and it’s a case of making sure that we carry on doing the right thing to keep it going for another I don’t know how many years.

“We’re also going out and finding new business, expanding our already loyal base of wholesale customers and customers are rediscovering the value of buying local and supporting local  companies.

“With programmes like the Great British Bake  Off being shown wall to wall on television, baking is fashionable and it’s nice that it’s gaining recognition that it didn’t have in the past.

“People are starting to think about what they’re going out buying and hopefully with us they’ll recognise that they’re buying something that’s a craft, handmade product.

“We’ve got staff that have been with us a very long time and are very skilled people who we value highly.

“Although we have 15 shops, we don’t think of ourselves as a chain. We think of ourselves as a family business.”

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