Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Elsie Helped Greggs Rise to the Top; Biggest Baking Firm Started on a Bicycle

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Elsie Helped Greggs Rise to the Top; Biggest Baking Firm Started on a Bicycle

Article excerpt

THEY say that behind every good man is a good woman and the baking firm of Greggs proves that point conclusively.

Today, Greggs is the biggest baking firm in Britain, but if it hadn't been for the woman behind the man, the firm may not have even left Gosforth.

It was in the 1930s that John (known as Jack) Gregg started the original business on a bicycle, when he took over his father's firm of yeast and egg merchants and added confectionery as a sideline.

He was selling products from a travelling shop when the Second World War broke out and was called up for army service. This is when his wife, Elsie, stepped into the breach and proved a real winner.

She increased business, added two vans to the venture and when one of their roundsmen left the firm she took over his deliveries and doubled the size of the round. She later told the Chronicle of her time propping up the business.

"We had some funny moments," she recalled. "I remember driving up a steep hill with a load of bakery and confectionery in the back of my van, which, I must admit, had seen better days.

"Suddenly, I heard a loud crash. The doors of the van had swung open and the road was strewn with sausage rolls, loaves of bread, cakes, biscuits, the lot. We still laugh about it, but I didn't think it was very funny at the time."

When the war ended Jack's demobilisation was delayed and Elsie started to get desperate - so much so that she wrote to the Minister for War, explaining her predicament and asked him to expedite her husband's return!

"I knew that at any moment I would be whisked off to hospital to have our third child and there would be no one to look after the business while I was away." Jack was home within the week and Elsie was able to devote herself to other more urgent and important things.

In 1951, Jack bought a shop on Gosforth High Street and Greggs of Gosforth was born. …

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