Bakery buyer's life goes full circle

16:00, Jan 25 2013
Wendy Smith
CHANGING HANDS: Wendy Smith, the granddaughter of Alex Smith who started Mays Bakery in 1914, has just sold the business.

After nearly 100 years in the family, the top-secret Mays pie recipe is changing hands.

Wendy and Phillip Smith have sold Mays Bakery to Bernie Sugrue who takes over on Monday with plans to expand the iconic Timaru brand.

In buying the bakery Mr Sugrue has come full circle after missing out on an apprenticeship at Mays when he was 15.

Mrs Smith is the granddaughter of Alex May, who came from Scotland and set up the business in 1914. The Smiths bought the business after Mrs Smith's uncle, who owned it, died in 2003.

The couple have decided it is time to move on.

"We have looked after it for 10 years. We bought it after my uncle died and decided to carry it on. We didn't know anything about baking, I have the Accessory Shop and Phil is in real estate so we did a lot of learning.


"Now we just want to get back a bit of quality time to ourselves," she said.

"We were approached and thought that we had done all that we could with the business."

"Timaru has supported us incredibly well."

Mays Pies attained worldwide attention after the Timaru Herald ran an ad for "Mice Pies", with talk show host David Letterman even referring to it. While the advertising manager at the Herald was mortified, the Smiths thought it was a great joke as they fielded numerous media calls.

Alex May's father was a baker in Scotland and Alex worked as fisherman in Timaru before starting the bakery in 1914.

The couple travelled to his home in Peterhead and discovered similar tasting pies. "It is a Scottish recipe. It's a scalded or boiled pastry that isn't flaky. It's also a mutton pie with secret herbs and spices and unlike most pies is hand-made," Mr Smith said.

"The food industry has changed dramatically with supermarkets, but slowly bakeries are starting to make a comeback as people go back to the traditional cakes and pies."

Mr Sugrue is no stranger to the humble pie as he owns McGregors Pies in Wanaka and also KB's bakeries in Christchurch.

His family lives in Wanaka while he will be travelling between his businesses.

"I was raised in Waimate and went and saw the original Mr May for a job, but I was only 15 and he gave it to a 16-year-old so I went to Oamaru and did my apprenticeship there instead.

He planned to investigate the original recipe and make sure they were sticking to it. "We won't be making mice pies though."

The Timaru Herald