Born & Bread: Cavan Bakery, Surrey

Bread is in the blood at Cavan Bakery. As the bakery celebrates its 90th anniversary, we find out how a love of bread blossomed into a thriving third-generation family business.

Were it not for the smell of freshly-baked loaves, Cavan Bakery might not exist today. It was this aroma that sparked David Cavan’s love of baking, leading him to begin his baking career in Lyon’s Corner House in Tottenham Court Road. A few years later he opened his own bakery with his wife, Olive, in Twickenham in 1929, called Devonshire Bakery.

Eight years later, he moved to 12 High Street Hampton Hill, producing cakes and pastries by day and bread by night to supply the shop and six hand-drawn bread barrows.

“Quality was always important to him and he would always quote ‘quality tells’ when placing local adverts for the business,” says director Sarah Cavan, granddaughter of David.

David passed away in 1949, aged 43, leaving Olive to run the business while raising their three teenage sons. She acquired two more premises and her son Tony came on board in 1957 after completing his studies at the National Bakery School.

It was here he met, and subsequently married, Penny Shell, a third-generation baker of Shell’s Bakery heritage. “I’ve well and truly got bread running through my veins,” says Sarah.

To celebrate his own heritage, Tony (pictured bottom left) changed the name of the bakery to Cavan Bakery in 1967. He kept the family recipes and traditions alive for decades before retiring in 2000.

It wasn’t always Sarah’s intention to join the family business, but she felt it would be in safe hands with herself and her husband, Jeff Greenall, at the helm. Having worked in other industries before joining the baking world, they brought with them a host of
business skills, which have been put to use.

“We always saw the importance of moving with the times,” Sarah says, noting updates to the brand identity, product range, software and equipment over the years, as well as the opening of seven new shops.

“We also knew it was the skill, passion and expertise of our bakers – rather than the machines – and the fantastic service of our shop staff that keeps the customers coming back time and time again.”

The products in demand have also changed. “When we took over, it was very much about a white loaf, a white bloomer and jam doughnuts – now we have a fantastic range of sourdoughs,” she says.

As for the future, Sarah insists: “We’ll keep listening to our customers and move with the times, without losing our tradition and heritage.”

Timeline

1929: David Cavan and his wife Olive open Devonshire Bakery

1937: They acquire the business of former Champion Bread Baker of England Tommy Clarke and move to Hampton Hill

1949: David passes away, aged 43

1955: Olive buys two more sites – run as a cake bakery and a shop

1957: Olive and David’s son, Tony, joins the business

1967: The firm is renamed Cavan Bakery as Tony and wife Penny take over

2000: Third-generation Sarah and husband Jeff take the helm

2011: Production moves to a larger site in Molesey, Surrey

2019: Cavan celebrates 90 years

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