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How it all started ...

 

1999, marked the seventieth anniversary of the McAvey family business. The founders, William Francis and Gertrude Agnes McAvey, were Worcester-born, and each generation after claims Worcester as their birthplace. It could not be more appropriate than to have the business located in Worcester, Massachusetts. We are proud of the superb quality of our baked goods and of the family's long history in baking.

William F., after much to-ing and fro-ing—operating lunch carts from Youngstown, Ohio, to Providence, R.I., to Wakefield, MA –opened a restaurant on Friend Street, Boston. That was the start of baking for other restaurants. Donald Francis, his second eldest who later assumed ownership of the family business, remembers delivering pies in a baby carriage. (Imagine perambulating around down there now, with the "Big Dig"!) After a few years in the Boston area, the decision was made to return to Worcester; no doubt the families on both sides influenced that decision: William was youngest of 13, Gertrude the oldest of 6. The bakery was first set up on Prescott Street in the store of William's sister, Mrs. Hurd, but not for long. Being Irish, squabbles arose.

The next move was to 400 Park Ave., then to Shrewsbury –Dewey Road and North Quinsigamond Ave.—and finally to Grafton Street, Worcester.

Captain Luke Dillon, of the Worcester Police Dept., Gertrude's father, persuaded the couple to buy the present location at 1393 Grafton Street. The property consisted of a house and a large building that had been a paint shop (Woolner's). It was remodeled, and wiring and plumbing were installed. Space was even provided for a truck –though it is doubtful that current-day health board regulations would permit such an arrangement.

The structure at 1393 Grafton St. was, and is at the time of this writing, a sturdy cement block building that withstood the ravages of the hurricane of 1938. Barrels, 50-gallon drums of shortening, were pushed into place to brace the garage doors. Mrs. Mack (Gertrude) mentioned watching the roof going up and down.

This was during the Depression years; money was tight, side jobs and ventures had to be tried. One venture was a restaurant on Portland Street, called "The Footlights Restaurant." The name derived from the proximity of the restaurant to the Capitol Theater. That didn't last very long.  There was also a barber shop next door. Donald walked into the restaurant one day, after cutting his own hair. Father William swiftly propelled him into the barber's chair.  William and son William obtained jobs at a wholesale baking plant -- Mrs. Manning's Pies --which closed down within a short period.

With the closing of Mrs. Manning's Pies, the local restaurant accounts were up for grabs. William, Sr., bought a truck and sought out several accounts. Other former workers bonded together and did the same, calling their outfit "Table Talk Pies." Competition was fierce and that made for some interesting times.

The family embarked on Industrial catering, supplying sandwiches, coffee, and pastries to workers at American Steel and Wire and other factories in town. That went on up until World War II, when William F. died.

Baking slowed, since baking supplies and gas to fire the ovens were rationed. Gertrude and son William maintained the shop until Donald returned after 4 years in the Air Corps. Gertrude took a part-time job at Osgood-Bradley Co; William went to Harrington Richards Arms and then to Reed Rolled Thread. William subsequently stayed at that post until retirement, always helping out in the bakery when needed. Daughter Virginia Marie, having attained age and wisdom, also worked diligently, assisting her mother and brothers. After the war ended, and Donald returned from service in Ireland, industrial catering stopped; wholesale and retail baking resumed.

"Mrs. Mack's Pies" was the early name of the business; it later changed to "Mrs. Mack's Bakery" after the property on Grafton St. was converted into a combination bakery, soda bar, and sandwich shop. The existing building has been added to and remodeled many times since 1939, when William opened the retail end. Donald opened a satellite shop (called a "dry bakery") at 538 Pleasant St. for a few years. Wholesaling concluded and the business concentrated on retailing.

Gertrude sold the business to Donald in 1951. Donald married Frances Margaret Tighe, the present Mrs. Mack, - "Femme Extraordinaire"-- and fathered 12 children. (The list is predominantly Irish: Mora Frances, M. Sheila, Monica, Eileen Frances, Shawn Peter, Michael, Siubhan, Murdoch Gerard, Grainne Agnes, Rebecca Anne, Martin, and Brigid Kate.) Frances was plucked from the shelves of the Billings Square Library in 1948. The children, raised with a strong mix of Reading, (W)Riting, Religion, Baking, and the Rod, are now involved in the ownership of the operations at Mrs. Mack's Bakery. Donald and Frances are now retired, and the family business became incorporated.