In 1926, Piet van Rooij married Maria van Uden and in the same year they took over a bakery and grocery shop in the village of Mill, Brabant. Bread was baked on a small scale but there was a lot of poverty. The actual revenue was much lower than promised before the takeover.
In order to generate some extra income, the bread and groceries were also sold from a bike. During the war, bread was mainly baked from grain supplied by the farmers themselves. The bakery was located right next to the Peel canal, a 'defence' canal, and it was damaged very badly during the battle.
As for many people, these were years of survival, but after the war a new start was made with baking and delivering.
“Pittebakjes” - the predecessors of party cups
In 1961, Piet and Maria's son Sjef married Mia Coppers. Together, they took over the bakery and grocery in the same year. Mia came from an entrepreneurial family and had good knowledge of groceries. This knowledge, combined with Sjef's ambition, was good news for the bakery. The shop underwent a complete metamorphosis in 1961. Bread was a hugely important part of the turnover and luxury patisseries were the exception. Sjef's brother Ad continued to assist him during his technical training. Ad wanted to become a pilot but his mother wasn't happy about this. The brothers had always had a very good relationship and they began to work together more and more closely in the bakery. Ad's technical knowledge was very useful. Stef made no secret of his enthusiasm and in 1963 his yeast supplier asked if he could make more pastry cups, the predecessors party cups. These baked pastry cups were regularly requested for receptions but were difficult to get hold of.
In 1963, equipment was bought from a bakery in Zeist, including a dough-rolling machine. With this machine, Sjef could meet the demand for larger quantities of “pittebakjes” and puff-pastry products, such as Christmas letters and pastry letters.
Live and let live
Sjef became very interested in this puff pastry. During a visit to a shop in his own village, he saw puff-pastry cups. That was a challenge: "I could do that too!" Although this was easier said than done, after a couple of tests he was able to make a puff-pastry case or vol-au-vent. He also followed the development of the number of bakeries in Mill closely. In 1965 there were more than 10 for a population of 3,000. Sjef knew that sooner of later, automation would mean there was no room for multiple baker's shops. It wasn't in Sjef's nature to take customers from other bakeries. His motto was 'live and let live' but he also wanted to create a better future and prospects for Mia and their 5 children.
With the puff-pastry cups at the shop in the back of his mind, he soon received his first order for 4 boxes of vol-au-vents. He told Mia that he could see a future for this product and together with his brother Ad, he decided to scale up their operations. They believed that vol-au-vents didn't just have to come from France. Surely they could be made in the Netherlands too?
A huge step
After a period of mainly manual production, the manufacture of “pittebakjes”, cream horns and other puff-pastry items, including vol-au-vents began to be carried out on a larger scale. Production gradually became more specialised and in 1971 Sjef and Mia stopped baking and selling bread. The shop was closed. The bakery moved to its current location in 1973. The building had previously housed a confectionery company. Ad also joined the company at this time, and the cooperation between the Van Rooij brothers officially commenced. It was a huge step with a rocky start but giving up is not an option for the Van Rooij family.
At the start of the 70s, 10,000 puff-pastry items were often produced in one week, using a lot of manpower. The bakery slowly became a factory and in addition to sales in the Netherlands, the company began to look across the border.
Until the 80s, the majority of the products were sold in the Netherlands. Production could barely keep up with demand, so every few years the factory expanded and more modern and faster machines were purchased. There was hardly any active selling, the turnover was growing rapidly and more customers would put production under even greater pressure.
In 1992, both of Sjef's sons, Jos and Frank, took over the factory. This was certainly not a smooth process. They had already had trouble making puff pastry at school and they weren't natural sales people either. They were hard workers though and they learnt as they went, with both production and sales beginning to take shape from 1996 - with success.
We can therefore proudly say that this real family business has transformed into a professional organisation. The sense of family can still be felt throughout the organisation every day.