Cherry Blossom bread makes its way to Obama’s table
On Saturday, Barack Obama broke bread baked in Breaffy. Twenty loaves of Cherry Blossom Bakery brown bread were delivered to The White House for St Patrick’s Day in what bakery owner Simon Stenson saw as the marketing opportunity of a lifetime.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who opened the company’s new bakery in Breaffy just three weeks ago, phoned Mr Stenson last week to tell him about the plan. The bakery owner admits that he couldn’t believe his bread was going to be given such an astronomical plug, and that he thought the Taoiseach was joking.
“I thought he was only messing when he told me the news,” Stenson told The Mayo News. “I’m delighted, as we’re only one year in to our business and we haven’t been able to finance our own PR and marketing.”
Cherry Blossom Bakery was initially established in Ballyvary after Simon Stenson saw a gap in the market for freshly baked artisan breads and cakes. Some of the most popular types of breads include gluten-free and wheat-free bread, which cater for the increasing number of people who suffer from food intolerances.
Cherry Blossom has become a major success story, bucking the recession and growing its business. “To be honest I can’t even find words to describe it. Since we started the business it’s been a whirlwind and it’s just grown and grown. Every month our figures have been up. In January, our business surpassed our December sales, which is completely unheard of.”
The Ballyvary man worked for a number of years as a construction manager with property developer Liam Carroll’s large building firm in Dublin. However, he was unemployed for almost two years after the economic crash in 2008.
The turning point in Stenson’s life came when his wife, Siobhán, bought him a voucher for Ballymaloe Cookery School. There, he trained with renowned chef Darina Allen, and he left the school refocused and ready for a new challenge.
After successfully securing a grant from the Mayo enterprise board and a loan from AIB, Simon and Siobhán spent about six months testing and developing prospective breads. For their Gluten-free range, they drafted in local experts. “We have friends down the road and the entire family are celiac, so we did a lot of talking and testing with them. They would give us the thumbs up or the thumbs down, so it was a long process.”
Cherry Blossom Bakery now employs 12 people in its new state-of-the-art premises in Breaffy Industrial Park. Three weeks ago, Stenson announced that he intends to employ a further 15 people to cope with the increasing demand. It currently supplies 135 stores throughout Mayo, Roscommon, Galway, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal, and plans are afoot to supply many more stores right across the country in the coming months.
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