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Alan Jones, Village Bakery

Alan Jones has transformed a back-street bakery with five employees into an award-winning business with three bakeries, 450 staff, and customers ranging from independents to national retailers.

Now aged 73, Alan left school at 15 with no qualifications, starting as an apprentice at Scotts in Liverpool. His four-year apprenticeship involved six months at college alternating with six months’ work, and he gained experience at three other bakeries.

His apprenticeship complete, in 1963 he returned to Scotts, then became a trainee manager at Cookson’s in Lytham, followed by bread production manager at Country Maid in Saltney, Chester, where his father worked. In 1964, Alan and his father bought a bakery in Wrexham, paying £5,000 for it at a time when Alan’s wage was just £20 a week.

Alan and his father grew the business and named it Village Bakery. Any spare time Alan had was spent teaching the craft at Wrexham Technical College. He married Wendy, daughter of a rival bakery owner, and they went on to have three sons, Robin and Christien, both still in the business, and Tim who left to pursue other ventures.

Business grew steadily, but the bakery’s meteoric rise began in the 1980s when Alan started a pie business, just as savouries began major growth. In 1992 a new, 30,000sq ft bakery was opened, and in 2008, £3m was invested in a gluten-free facility. As sales of all products soared, a partnership was established with Marks & Spencer, which led to another 30,000sq ft bakery being opened. At that stage, the decision was taken to concentrate on wholesale, and the firm’s retail shops were sold. In 2012, £1m was invested in a second production line.

Alan has never lost sight of his apprenticeship roots. In 2015, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall opened Village Bakery’s new £4m Baking Academy and Innovation Centre – Alan’s idea. He still delights in giving apprentices his time and advice.

Alan has given back to the community of Wrexham as well, being an active supporter of local Hope House Hospice. Since 1995 he has also supported and given the company’s name to The Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon – and everyone who finishes receives either crumpets or Welsh cakes. Links with local football team Wrexham AFC stretch back over 40 years, when Alan was chairman of a testimonial fund for club legend, Gareth Davies.

He has also been the driving force in creating a six-acre nature reserve, working with the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Son Robin says their father has always been a massive inspiration on Christien and himself, having drummed into them that quality of product is everything.

There’s no doubt that Village Bakery has become what it is today because of their father’s vision; not bad for a Liverpool lad who left school at 15 with no qualifications.