Dear Greggs, I'm a pasty maker. Here is why you are not welcome here in Cornwall | Fergus Muller

The Cornish have favourite pasty shops like they have favourite football teams. Passable pastries don’t stand a chance

We’ve been making pasties in Cornwall for generations – we’re masters at it. Local people support their favourite pasty shop like they might do a football team. So Greggs’ plan to open its only Cornish high-street shop in Truro seems misguided at best.

I own Ann’s Pasties, which was founded 40 years ago using my gran’s pasty recipe. My gran, mum and aunt started making pasties out of the local Guildhall, opened a shop, and it all grew from there. The ingredients – from the salt to the turnips – are all sourced from within a 10-mile radius locally, with the vegetables grown in the same fields my great-great-grandmother would have used.

Pasties in Cornwall are wrapped up in our local land, local economy and local suppliers, and there’s no way Greggs will have that ethos or that understanding. That’s probably why it has struggled to get a foothold here, and why it is facing lots of negativity – it is coming into a territory it probably shouldn’t be entering. Case in point: it tried to open a branch in Saltash, Cornwall, in 2019 and it closed after less than a year.

So why does it keep trying? I think it sees there’s a big market here for pasties and pastry goods, and it desperately wants to tap into it. Since 2019, it has opened branches at a motorway services station (where people passing through are more used to Greggs) and on an industrial estate. They do an adequate job, but it’s never going to fly down here, when there are so many brilliant people making pastry goods – from the small artisans to the bigger chains such as Rowe’s, which has a branch opposite the planned Greggs site and will be in direct competition. It’s like turning up in the Champagne region and trying to make sparkling wine.

Pasty-making is more than just cooking, it’s a skilled profession. At Ann’s we hand-crimp our pasties, which is a bit of a dying art. I still have to crimp myself because you can’t just bring in a load of crimpers – they need to be trained up to crimp four or five pasties a minute, and not everyone has the knack. I’m very lucky to have the core staff I have. One of my staff has worked at many other local pasty businesses, and it’s great hearing from her about how other places do things.

The Greggs opening, now taking place on 6 December, has been delayed for two months, and locals have speculated that it has been struggling to find staff (Greggs hasn’t given a reason for the delay). I personally can’t see many Cornish people wanting to work in there.

Greggs does really well in other parts of the country – it has more than 2,000 branches after all. I can understand why it would like to expand in Cornwall. But we have the skills, and we’re the best at what we do.

  • Fergus Muller is the owner of Ann’s Pasties (and son of Ann). As told to Barbara Speed

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Contributor

Fergus Muller

The GuardianTramp

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