Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

From Hawke's Bay Today. Picture by Sarah Gully

Family fare takes the cake

Icing on top for heaven-sent baking

Cake shops, hot bread shops, cafes and coffee - Heavens Bakery has been at the forefront of trends spanning 33 years.

The icing on the cake for the family-owned business was to win the Excellence in Retail category in last month's Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

The first cake shop was set up in 1974 by founder Graham Heavens with rainbow sponges, rock cakes, pikelets, and pavlovas popular. "Then we made product for people to take home and we still offer some of the classics today," son and general manager Jason Heaven said. "In the old days we didn't even sell hot or cold drinks."

During a trip overseas in 1978 Jason's dad experienced the hot bread shop concept so they started up their Meeanee Road store. Jason said the popularity of hot bread shops waned when supermarkets started offering bakery products.

"Now it's all about catering to customers' lifestyle desires," Jason said. "We make products for people to come into our cafes and eat."

At one stage the company operated 24 hours around the clock and supplied outlets between Taupo and Wellington.

"We started to suffer in the wholesale market due to increased competition, so we pulled back to focus on our retail stores 11 years ago," he said.

After buying the Marewa Home Cookery the family realised that was the market they needed to move into.

"It was a huge learning curve," Jason said. "The focus is on quality and consistency. If you have good coffee people will come back. It took us years to get that right."

Another ingredient hs been their staff, said Jason, with several on the team for over 30 years. The group employed 107 staff across six outlets around Napier and were focusing on franchising their successful cafes.