Ernest Alfred Adams was born in Wellington, England in 1892. The son of a baker, upon finishing his education, he went to work for his father and learnt the trade. Sadly, soon after, his father was forced to declare bankruptcy, moving on to Australia for a new start. In 1912, Adams joined him, opening his own bakery in Victoria in 1915.
After the untimely death of his first wife and second son in child birth, Ernest moved his life to Christchurch in 1921. It was here that he met an elderly baker named Hugh Bruce. An impression must have been made as Bruce, who was looking to sell his business, changed his mind and went into partnership him. The company was called Adams Bruce Ltd.
By 1929, there were bakeries not only in Christchurch but also Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. During this time, the company did split between the North and South Island, the South Island company becoming known as Ernest Adams Ltd. A merger between these two companies occurred in 1974, making Ernest Adams a nation wide company.
Acknowledging his tough experience with his father’s bankruptcy, he successfully steered the business through the Great Depression of the 1930’s by cutting his own pay to avoid redundancies, among many other unusual tactics. He also managed to keep his retirement benefits for his employees intact and financially supported those of his ‘working family’ that fought in WWII. As these times eased, Earnest Adams Ltd was the largest bakery business in the South Island.
In 1962, Adams received an O.B.E. from the Queen for his community work. Throughout his working career, he had taken an active interest in better education and welfare for those less fortunate. He also served in the Christchurch City Council from 1953 to 1956 and through his affections for Arthur’s Pass; he was on the Pass’ National Park Board from 1948 till 1958.
The family link to the business ended in 1996.
*Image courtesy of the Encyclopedia of New Zealand – http://www.teara.govt.nz – URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/5a4/adams-ernest-alfred