New American owner for Walls Bakery
Walls Bakery has moved into new ownership with an American businessman taking over.
Bruce Gilardi moved to the isles in April and has roots to Shetland reaching back to the 1890s. He takes over from Charlie Hodge who has owned and run the West Side bakery since 1987.
Established in 1983 by John Boland, the business has undergone several changes under Mr Hodge’s tenure.
The original location of a converted church proved to be too small and a new bakery was built in 1992.
Since then products have grown to include oatcakes, oaties and water biscuits, as well as craft bakery goods. With 10 employees over the last 30 years it has also contributed to the local economy.
Mr Hodge said: “I am very proud of what we have achieved, especially of my talented and dedicated team.
“Now is the right time to hang up my apron and hand the business over to
someone who can build on our success. Bruce has the enthusiasm, energy and experience to realise the great potential of the Walls Bakery.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he can achieve. Meanwhile, Mandy and I are looking forward to retirement between the Borders and Shetland, and spending more time with our families and friends.”
Born in California, Mr Gilardi is a former US Navy officer and is the grandson of John Arthur and Gertrude Jamieson.
He has also set up his own investment management company in New York and came up with the idea for a high-end chocolate company and cafe in the Big Apple for which he raised funds.
Mr Gilardi’s motherJacqueline taught in Shetland for several years before setting off to work her way around the world.
She met her husband in Vancouver and raised five children in Southern California.
It was while visiting his aunt in Walls last summer that Mr Gilardi heard the bakery was for sale.
After learning more about the business he returned in October to work at the bakery and see the team in action and was impressed with what he saw. So much so that he made an offer.
Mr Gilardi said: “In this extremely challenging environment, Charlie has built a strong, thriving business, and set the stage for future growth.
“Because of this solid foundation it has excellent potential, which motivated me to buy the company and move to Shetland.”
The new owner first visited Shetland as a teenager in 1979, followed by a hamefarin in 2010.
He said his initial plan was “not to mess with success” – with few changes until he gets to grips with the business and customers. Mr Hodge will be staying on for a time to help with the handover.
One change will be the name – to remove any confusion outwith Shetland with the ice cream brand.
Mr Gilardi feels since folk say “Waas” the bakery should be named Waas Bakery.