A Derbyshire bakery has revealed how a combination of old ‘top secret’ recipes, modern twists and new technology has kept the business thriving for more than a century.
Stacey’s Bakery, which has four shops in Ilkeston, Heanor and Eastwood, says that it is continuing to build on its solid foundations while also embracing changes that will sustain it into the future.
It follows the bakery’s unveiling of two new cake slices that are proving hugely popular among the firm’s loyal fan base, and which took their inspiration from school dinners. Stacey’s recently launched the Old School, a madeira cake slice sprinkled with hundreds and thousands, alongside its Jam and Coconut Slice.
The launch illustrates perfectly how Stacey’s has maintained a long heritage of traditional baking while constantly reinventing its products with modern twists.
David Stacey, managing director of Stacey’s Bakery, said: “Four generations of bakers have provided our Derbyshire customers with their favourite and affordable indulgences. We have a long history of traditional products, but still adapt and move with the times. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time, it doesn't mean it has to stay that way!”
The established firm has strong traditions and ethics, which along with a loyal customer base and some ‘top secret’ recipes, has ensured its longevity. While keeping recipes and quality constant has been one of the reasons for the firm’s success, it has always found ways to use technology to improve production.
David explains: “Over the years, production methods have changed, but we still deliver old favourites and modern twists, and with a constant eye on giving customers what they love at a price that they can afford.”
The bakery’s best-selling product, gingerbread is a prime example. The closely guarded secret recipe has remained the same for generations. However, now, instead of being rolled out by hand, a specialist machine takes on the work.
According to David, whose working day starts at 3am, “this gives us a more consistent product and makes it easier for us to keep the shops stocked as they are in high demand.” Around 300 to 400 of the little people are sold every day, plus many hedgehogs, llamas and ducks that are also available.
Quality is always at the forefront of the baker’s mind. Before buying the labour-saving machine around 15 years ago, he flew off to the Hague, in the Netherlands, clutching a 12kg batch of the firm’s special dough in his hand luggage in order to properly test out the machine before investing!
“It’s the furthest I’ve travelled with a bag of dough,” admitted David, “but despite having a few wobbles as I went through security, it was absolutely worth it.”
Another piece of machinery was purchased to assist in the production of fruit and cheese scones. The “generations-old recipes” are now teamed with a machine that stamps out the dough meaning the scones are handled less and so are lighter and fluffier.
Stacey’s mince pies, however, which are actually sold all year round, still get individual attention and are made using the traditional method of stamping out the pastry, filling with mincemeat, and adding the lids by hand. David said: “So many customers say that Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a Stacey's mince pie! Actually, they also say the same thing in July!”
The proudly local firm is also acutely aware of community and says that one of its biggest assets is its loyal customers. This support is paid forward by supporting other local businesses.
David said: “For decades, we have used fresh pork and beef for our much-loved sausage rolls and Derbyshire savoury rolls from Martin Ogden Butchers next door to our bakery. It is important to us to support other local businesses and ensure quality for our customers.
“We recently invested in new machinery and converted and rebuilt an outbuilding in our yard to make production of these items easier and more streamlined.”
He continued: “Our flour has come from traditional miller E B Bradshaw and Sons since as long as anyone can remember - they are a company that has been in business for over 125 years, so heritage and tradition are also important to them.”
David gave a nod to past generations as he recalled the history of the firm which dates back to the First World War. After Guy Stacey, David’s great-grandfather was shot in the leg during the war while serving as a Coldstream Guard, the army was no longer an option, so he decided to open a bakery, with the first one based in Peterborough.
In the 1930s, the Stacey family moved to Ilkeston and opened a bakery in Bath Street, not far from where its current Bath Street store stands. As the business grew, the bakery moved to larger premises in South Street. The firm now has four shops in three towns around the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border.
With all that history comes some recollections: “My grandfather set himself on fire once”, David recalled. “There was a problem with an oven and he lit a match to see inside but it ignited the gas. He wrapped himself up to put the fire out and then just carried on. He burnt his face and was left with scars.
“Then, in the winter of discontent in the 70s, all the big bread makers went on strike so there was a massive demand for our bread. We couldn’t make it quick enough so in the end we just sold the dough so people could make their own bread at home.”
The firm still has a keen eye on current trends and customer struggles. Most of the sweet treats at Stacey’s Bakery are on sale for under one pound.
While embracing the past and looking to the future, tradition is still at the core of Stacey’s Bakery business. Shelves are packed with traditional slab cakes, date and walnut and cherry fruit cakes – items which have been produced since the bakery began. They are joined by lemon iced sponge, toffee cake, carrot and chocolate cakes.
Shortcrust and sweet pastry recipes have remained the same over several generations and it is this pastry that forms the backbone of many of the firms well-loved products, such as jam and lemon tarts, fruit pies and egg custards.
David said: “This ensures that the treats have the same great taste that our grandparents would have enjoyed all those years ago.
To discover more about the store locations, opening times and products on sale at Stacey’s Bakery, visit www.staceysbakery.co.uk