The owner of Heatherslaw Bakery Company says he was left with “no option” but to close down and cease trading after 22 years in business.
The firm’s sudden demise has been blamed on the struggling economy and subsequent fall in demand for the quality biscuits and cakes made by the firm.
“It’s very sad but we had no option but to cease trading on Friday with the loss of 23 jobs,” said owner Colin Smurthwaite.
“We’ve traded very well for most of the 22 years we’ve been in business, selling Heatherslaw Bakery products all over the country, including Orkney, and exporting them to France and Belgium.”
Originally based next to Heatherslaw Corn Mill, the company moved the bulk of its business to the East Ord Industrial Estate a few years ago.
“Before the credit crunch came we found that people were very happy to go to garden centres and pay for nice products,” explained Mr Smurthwaite.
“We used to have quite a decent profit margin on them but sales of those products have been in decline for the last five years. We took on a lot more business, operating with lower profit margins but that has not been enough to replace the decline of those high-end products.”
Although the company has ceased production, it still has stock which it is keen to shift.
“We’ve kept on a couple of staff this week to man the phones to sell off the remaining stock,” said Mr Smurthwaite.
Trustees and staff at Heatherslaw Corn Mill and Ford and Etal Estates have expressed sadness at the news.
Lord Joicey of Ford and Etal Estates said: “Heatherslaw Bakery had a tremendous reputation for quality biscuits and cakes and it is sad that the firm has ceased to trade so suddenly.
“It is important to state that the mill at Heatherslaw was not connected to the firm and so continues to operate normally.”
The news was also greeted with a mixture of shock and sadness in the local community.
Ann Smith, on facebook, wrote: “Sad day for all concerned. No matter where we travelled in the UK, it was great seeing Heatherslaw Bakery products, made you feel proud.”
Edna Shearer, also on facebook, added: “Hope all the workers find suitable jobs.”
But businessman John Youngman, whose hardware shop on Marygate closes on March 29 as he focuses on internet trading, believes it is part of a wider problem affecting Berwick.
“Something has to be done to draw attention to the plight of this town,” he said. “A lot is made about attracting visitors and tourists to Berwick, but the people who live and work here are forgotten.
“We’ve hung on and hung on but the footfall just isn’t there. When local people like ourselves and Heatherslaw Bakery are going, who have been here for years, what does that say?”
Heatherslaw Corn Mill continues to produce quality stoneground flours (wheat, rye and spelt) at Heatherslaw and to supply oatmeals, oatflakes and muesli, all of which are already available at local village stores and at two selected outlets in Berwick.
Wholemeal flour is milled from locally grown wheat whilst oats are now milled at Kelso.
The flours, oats and muesli will also soon be available through an online mail order facility.
A corn mill has existed at Heatherslaw for over 700 years. The mill opens for the 2014 season on Monday, March 24.