Our Sweet Beginnings
After 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Milagros Daez Sevilla, a lover of sweets, decided to open her own bakeshop. Knowing nothing about pastries (other than that she enjoyed eating them), she solicited advice from her drugstore’s neighbouring businesses, and proceeded to hire a couple who used to work at a successful Manila bakery. On September 24, 1972, Merced Bakehouse, named in honor of her mother, Mercedes Daez, was born.
Our shop is run by three generations of the same family. My grandmother was always the excitable one. She was always gung-ho about pursuing new opportunities, and even now, at 101 years of age, she gets excited hearing about the strides we’re making with our online shift. Being cooped up at home because of COVID-19 has not dampened her energy at all, and I expect 3 to 4 calls from her every day, just asking how things are going at the shop.
My mother, naturally, had to become the more level-headed manager. She was the one who preached the value of prudence, patience, and a healthy dose of skepticism. I still report back to her as often as possible, and she still has the final word over our decisions. Also, despite not having the formal training I received, Mom tried to be on top of baking and restaurant trends. Even when I was at the back of the shop monitoring production, she would be the one pushing for new ideas, new items, and new promotions, constantly encouraging us to innovate.
More so than Lola and her enthusiasm, I feel like mom was the engine that made the shop run. The more time I spend sitting in her chair, the more I realize the value of her work, and the practical advice she continues to give me and my brother.
The driving force for making Merced accessible online was the desire to augment our sales in these uncertain times. I think this change would’ve been inevitable, especially as leadership transitioned to my brother and I, but the COVID-19 crisis accelerated our need to install these improvements. This is, as they say, the “New Normal”, and it would be foolhardy to expect the business to survive off our old routines.
I don’t want to let down my parents and grandparents, and that’s a strong motivation for grinding away at the shop. In addition to that though, the fact that we have staff who have been working for us for longer than I’ve been alive, pushes me to do my best every day. You don’t want to let down these people who’ve essentially become family as well. If the business succeeds, everyone can be taken care of.