Hailed as one of the greatest businessman to come out of Ennis, the late Pat O’Connor has been remembered with esteem in the county town.
Co-founder of O’Connor’s Bakery along with his beloved wife Mary, the pair were responsible for the creation of hundreds of jobs in the Mid-West in a business that has lasted close to six decades.
When the business was established in 1961, Pat worked as a pastry chef in Shannon Airport, he and Mary later trained as confectioners in a small Kilkee coffee shop/bakery.
During the early years of the business, Pat would begin working in the bakery at 3am before leaving for Shannon where he started at 7am. After completing a day’s work at the Airport, he would complete extra hours at the bakery and would arrive home at 6pm. Mary worked in the bakery in the morning and then the shop during the day. Up until recently, they worked six days a week in the bakery.
Parnell St in Ennis was the location of the first bakery and it was situated behind their first shop. As the years progressed so too did the amount of shops. Seven more shops located in Ennis, Shannon, Limerick, Gort and Galway opened their doors while a large modern bakery was built on a green field site in 1981 and doubled in size in 1998.
In 2001 the company was the first bakery to apply for and achieve certification by the National Standards Authority of Ireland in Food Safety Management.
Family remains an integral part of the business with three of their children actively involved in the bakery with all grandchildren having completed shifts on weekends and school holidays.
Approximately 145 persons are employed by O’Connor’s Bakery with some staff serving for longer than 40 years.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, CEO of Ennis Chamber, Margaret O’Brien said that Pat “typified the entrepreneurial and hard working spirit of the Irish SME sector, the backbone of our economy”.
Earliest memories of sweet treats for many people in the county were responsible thanks to Pat and Mary, she said. “From their original shop in Parnell Street, pastry chef Pat O’Connor introduced generations of locals to the delights of choux pastry, jam doughnuts, swiss rolls, whiskey cake and occasion cakes. Pat O’Connor together with his wife Mary helped create memories, gave steady employment and became business leaders in our community”.
Cllr Pat Daly (FF) who was born houses down from the first bakery and shop paid tribute to Pat whom he called “one of the greatest businessmen in the town of Ennis”. Few individuals have created an enterprise that led to employment opportunities in Galway, Ennis and Limerick, he noted. “It started off in Parnell St and created a massive amount of jobs, he gave great employment to this town and many other towns”.
Pat is pre-deceased by his brothers Billy and Galie. He is sadly missed by his loving wife Mary, sons Joe, John, Pat and Brendan, daughter Ann Marie, son in law, daughters in law, grandchildren, brothers Seamus, Tom, Frank and Mike, sisters Sr. Anne and Therese, brothers in law, sisters in law, nephews, nieces, relatives, the staff of O’ Connors bakery and friends.