Jones family bakery back on a roll less than two years after devastating fire
A new super bakery is up and running less than two years after the one it replaced was destroyed by a devastating fire.
Champagne corks popped after bread started rolling off the production line at the Jones Village Bakery’s new 140,000 sq ft plant on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
The jubilant mood was in stark contrast to the heartbreak when fire ripped through the original bakery on August 19, 2019.
According to the family firm, the most important thing was that everybody evacuated the building unhurt which meant they were able to turn their attention immediately to a recovery plan.
The result is the new bakery which is four times the size of the old one and was built in record time.
It has a 120 metre long state-of-the-art production line imported from Italy and Holland that can make 36,000 bread rolls an hour.
As well as housing the company’s main offices, the new complex also includes the new Baking Academy and New Product Development kitchen – both twice the size of the previous ones.
The company is now in the process of recruiting 115 new staff to cater for the growth in demand for their market-leading products.
To serve as a constant reminder of the “indomitable spirit” that enabled them to recover so quickly, the Jones family have erected a striking sculpture outside, made from a steel girder that was horribly bent by the intense heat of the blaze at the old bakery.
The touching inscription on the plaque says: “This twisted metal girder was salvaged from the devastating fire that destroyed our flagship bakery on August 19, 2019.
“It is a lasting tribute to the heroic resilience shown by all the Village People when our darkest day turned into our finest hour.”
The designing, building and equipping of the new bakery was masterminded by projects director Christien Jones, the brother of managing director Robin Jones.
He said: “The fire seems like it was a lifetime ago and to be here in this new bakery with the same team, along with some new team mates, is just phenomenal.
“We started with a green field just 17 months ago but it’s been made possible by the guys we’ve got and their unwavering commitment to the project.
“The fact that the bakery is now up and running and making bread rolls fills me and the team with an immense feeling of pride.
“It’s been an incredible effort from day one because they rose to the challenge magnificently. They have been heroic.
“We switched production of bread rolls to our bakery in Minera and we were baking them that evening and we delivered in full to our customers the following day.
“This is a next generation bakery. Because we started with a blank canvas, we have really pushed the boundaries. What we have here is the future of baking and we will be leading the market in the UK for some time to come. Essentially, we have future-proofed ourselves.
“We have created an environment that is fantastic to work in. The bakery is climate controlled and the production line is incredibly quiet, like a Rolls Royce. There is no heavy manual lifting and we have used soft lighting that is kinder on the eye.
“We purify all the air coming into the building, we HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filter all our air so it also helps our products’ shelf life. In the hotter areas where the ovens are, we ventilate so it doesn’t get overly hot.”
He added: “On this site everything is bigger and better and we’re training more people to enable us to continue on our growth trajectory.”
The day of the fire is forever seared on the memory of shift manager Leighton Howells, who’s been working for the Village Bakery for 16 years after starting out as an apprentice at the age of 17.
He was driving into work to start his shift at 10am when he heard about the blaze on the radio.
Leighton said: “To begin with there was a feeling of disbelief but then we banded together to see what we could do to help.
“We switched production to our bakery in Minera that night and two years later we have got our reward by moving here to the new bakery which is absolutely amazing. I am really proud of the team – they’re a great bunch of guys.”
According to Kris Green, the project manager, the fact they had been able to stage such a remarkable comeback “all guns blazing” was testament to skill and determination of Leighton’s team.
He said: “It’s been an absolute joy to commission the plant. We’ve been working with some wonderful suppliers and contractors.
“To have delivered this in just 17 months has been an amazing experience to be part of.
“What’s really exciting is what’s to come because we have the ability to really reach out and take the UK market on to the next level in terms of quality and supplying in quantity. It’s incredibly special.”
It was also a proud day for Ashley Dawson, 30, who was appointed manager of the new flagship bakery six years after joining the family firm as their business sustainability and improvement executive and rising swiftly through the ranks.
He said: “I feel honoured and privileged to be the captain of the ship so to speak.
“This is the most modern, high spec bakery in the UK if not Europe and everything here is to the highest possible standard so we can make the best products on the market.
“We’re industry leaders in pretty much everything that we do and that’s down to our constant quest to keeping on improving quality. We always want to make things better and this new bakery allows us to do that.
“We have got so much room for growth here and it’s such an exciting time to be part of the Village Bakery success story.”