Healy’s Bakery, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, is in the lucky one-third of businesses that survive beyond the founder’s generation.
In fact Rachel Healy, who currently runs the business, is sixth generation having taken on the mantle from her father Michael Healy who is still delivering bread and cakes in his 80s.
Healy’s Bakery is Cork’s oldest surviving bakery and began with another Michael Healy in 1862, who operated from a premises on Grand Parade.
The first bread van in the business was bought in 1929 and was put to good use delivering to homes, farms, and businesses.
Michael (Rachel’s father) believes their business has stood the test of time because of hard work and the hands-on approach of the family.
“You are there to make sure your product is right and tastes the best. It can be hard going, six days a week every week, and the bread section is night work, because deliveries of the bread to the shops must be done very early in the morning.”
Rachel did consider not going into the business, having seen the demands it made on her parents, but she has a strong artistic side that ultimately found expression through creative celebration cakes.
Her sister Daphne is in the baking trade in Drogheda and their brother Brian is heavily involved in the bread side. His wife Denise runs the English Market stall. Rachel spends most of her time in the original bakery in Blackpool.
So what has kept the business ticking over? Making a product that is never obsolete helps. People will always need to eat, so the challenge is keeping the product relevant.
Rachel says: “A good solid product will last the test of time. We have a lot of products with a long Cork tradition such as layer cake, carroway seed, cherry, madeira cake.
“And of course there’s a huge Christmas tradition. Seed cake was known as the poor man’s Christmas cake and remains a favourite. Then there’s chester cake, the posh name for donkey’s gudge, one of our biggest sellers.”
There’s no doubting Rachel knows her trade. She has even broken cake-making records. But what of the next generation? “There are 11 grandchildren so we are hoping at least one will take an interest in maintaining the family business,” she says.