Pepe Rico employed 15 people in his popular bakery. / A.J.G.

Rico bakery closes doors in Antequera after 38 years because they could not find staff

They even tried changing the traditional early morning hours of the job and a salary of up to 1,850 euros, but nobody was interested

ANTONIO J. GUERRERO

Owner Pepe Rico started from nothing, rebuilt a bakery in ruins, learned the trade in another and grew to become one of the benchmarks of bread and pastries in Antequera. Until this weekend, the bakery-confectionery Rico made 5,000 loaves of bread and was one of the most highly regarded for their sweets and cakes in Antequera. But they have had to close because they could not find professional bakers to continue baking bread after the planned retirement at the end of the year of two-thirds of the bakers.

"We have not found bakers, qualified staff. We have spent seven months looking for solutions,", explains owner Pepe Rico Artacho. They even tried changing the traditional early morning hours of the job, from 7.30am to midday, but nobody was interested, even though they were offering a salary of up to 1,850 euros.

He regrets that there are no young people who want to do these artisan jobs and he blames the culture of promoting aid rather than training for young people. “I think that if training was sought, we would not have closed down as is happening in many bakeries," Rico said.

Rico told SUR how in the early 80s the bakery was closed. "I undertook to do the work in exchange for six years' rent and look what we have lived through". After 38 years, the self-employed owner was retired part-time, but he was still trying to maintain the business he had worked so hard to set up. He remembers his beginnings as a great success: "There were huge queues for the bread and oil buns, people would come and tell us it was the best bread in Antequera".

"I learnt in the bakery in Calle del Plato. From the first day, I looked for the best. Sourdough is the secret to making good bread and that is how it has been until the last day when we have made an average of 5,000 loaves". A loaf of bread is made, Rico says, "depending on how much fermentation you give it, we opted for very little, about three and a half hours more or less". Supermarkets and petrol stations may have arrived, "but when you sell quality, people keep coming back, as they have shown us right up to the last day," Rico said.

The hard-working baker thanked his customers for their trust over the 38 years that he has been able to keep his business open: "After a lifetime in the bakery, I can only thank them on my own behalf and on behalf of my family". Now, he hopes that "someone will do what I did in 1984: reopen a bakery that was closed and that this neighbourhood will once again have its bakery and continue working for this traditional trade that is so much ours".