You would be hard put to find somebody who has lived in South Wales in the past 75 years who has not heard of Ferrari’s.
The bakery’s logo, as well as its cakes and pastries are known to everyone. The business has bakeries on almost every high street, from Cardiff to Tonypandy, serving up everything from ’breakfast baps’ to wedding cakes. Ferrari’s has been offering good value, quality produce and providing quick affordable lunches to workers all over South Wales, for years. Sadly, for the people of the area, the company went in to administration before Christmas. I hope that a buyer is found as soon as possible to keep the bakery and shops open and, most importantly, secure the jobs of the workforce.
On 19 December 2006, when the company announced it was going into administration, it cited falling sales and greater fuel costs for the decision. The firm employs around 600 workers all over South Wales. The business has been advertised here in British Baker and in the FT, and several interested buyers have contacted the administrators.
I met with the workers at the factory in Hirwaun just after Christmas and they told me of their concerns. Some of them have been working at the bakery for 30 years. Others have a whole family of five working together at the bakery. Although they are obviously worried about their jobs and the business, they are continuing to work as usual and are determined to fight to save the firm. They know Ferrari’s has an excellent reputation and, while customers continue to buy, the workers will continue to bake.
They mentioned Tower Colliery, the only deep mine left in South Wales. It is about half a mile from the bakery and is now a worker’s cooperative. In 1994, I sat down the mine at Tower for some 27 hours, and it was saved as a working pit, since the men invested their redundancy money to keep it going.
On my visit to the bakery, I also met with union representatives, managers and administrators. As I told them, I am talking to the Wales Office, which is working on a package to support the business in the light of recent developments. It would certainly be a body blow for the whole of the Cynon Valley, as well as the economy of South Wales, if the business were to fold.
John James of The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union has told me that he is hopeful that a buyer will be found and that the staff are keeping positive. One employee of 17 years, summed it up when she said, "Apart from how important it is to keep the jobs, it has been so popular over many years. We need to keep the name going now."
I shall do everything I can to help find a buyer for the company and secure the brand as well as jobs in the area. Ferrari’s is part of the social fabric of South Wales. It would be a great shame for all its customers if it ceased to exist in its present guise, and another small, local brand was squeezed out, in favour of the larger, more expensive high street bakeries and supermarkets.
Ferrari’s has a long history in the area. The Ferrari’s family started baking in 1925, after setting up a chain of successful cafés, first established in 1912, for the chapel-going miners and non-conformists, who wanted an alternative to pubs and chapels to fill their leisure time. Like many other Italian immigrants at the time, the Ferraris came over on the boats from Italy, trading Italian timber, needed to support the mines for Welsh coal. The family came from the Bardi region in Italy, near Parma, and originally worked as miners, until they saw the gap in the market and became some of the earliest café owners in the UK.
Around 1960, some of the younger members of the family decided to expand the bakery and acquired new premises in Hirwaun, opening more retail outlets. Robert Ferrari, the son of the original founder, has fond memories of the business: "We had a wonderful workforce. I know all of them and continue to take an interest in whole families." When the next generation moved into other occupations, the company was sold to Paul Cleary of Cleary foods in 1995.
The Rt Hon Ann Clwyd is MP for the Cynon Valley