As the holiday season draws close, the lines grow longer and longer at Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery, a small storefront in Redford. And like the multiple generations of Ackroyds that have been running the bakery since it first opened, they've been serving their traditional Scottish meat pies, sausage rolls, and bridies to multiple generations of families across the region.
It's a fact that's not lost on Megan Ackroyd, president of Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery, third generation.
"At Christmas time or Thanksgiving, certain families have traditions that are based around our food. That's such a huge compliment and we don't take that for granted at all. It's really incredible for me to be able to say that," says Megan. "My family's business is someone else's family tradition. That's a very specific thing. It's a huge honor. I want to keep that going."
Megan assumed the role of president after her return to Michigan in 2010. It was something she never planned on -- she didn't even plan on staying in Michigan. Fresh off a nearly eight year stint in corporate America, Megan figured she'd return to her family's shop, get re-acquainted with the business, and open a new Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But her return stirred a deep emotional connection to the family business and its customers. So she stayed. Megan has committed herself to growing the Ackroyd's brand, making sure that it sticks around for generations to come.
In 1949, Megan's grandfather Allan Ackroyd and his brother Silas came over from Windsor, Ontario and opened their first shop as Ackroyd's Meat Market near the intersection of 6 Mile and Schaefer roads in Detroit. First a butcher shop, Ackroyd's morphed into a bakery as the brothers began to carry other companies' meat pies and pasties. Soon deciding they could cut out the middle man, they began making their own traditional Scottish meat pies.
The business grew with multiple locations opening across metro Detroit. At somewhere around seven or eight years old, Megan started working at the family's Birmingham location. Too small to see over the counter, she would peek around its edge to take customers' orders.
"I loved working there," says Megan. "It wasn't like my parents were ever forcing me to be there. I was just there for fun."
Ackroyd's is now down to one location, the storefront on 5 Mile Road in Redford. But business is good, and Megan is currently working on a strategy to grow Ackroyd's into a multiple location business once again. The online presence of the company continues to grow.
They've also begun selling their products at the new Red Dot Coffee Company in Northville. Other companies, like Door to Door Organics, sell their shortbread cookies. And Detroit's Bon Bon Bon recently used the Ackroyd's shortbread as a main component in its Butter Cookie Bon Bon treat.
Megan is also planning on a redesign for the Redford location, which is fairly utilitarian with its metal racks and spartan decor. She's tapped Branded by Detroit to create custom wooden shelves and a hand-painted wooden sign.
She wants to tell the story of the unique products Ackroyd's creates and carries. In addition to the range of cookies, teacakes, meat pies, sausage rolls, and many other products they make in house, you'd be hard-pressed to find another business in metro Detroit with the special products they import from the United Kingdom, including foreign candies, pops, and groceries. And the special UK Christmas treats are just about to arrive, too.
"December is, hands down, our best month," says Megan. "It is the busiest, it is the craziest, but it's also the most fun around here."
Ackroyd's remains as much of a family business as ever. Megan's father, Allan, Jr., still works in the back, having always preferred the production side of the bakery, while Megan works the business side of things, her own preferred role. At 90 years old, her grandpa, the co-founder Allan Ackroyd, is also around. Megan's partner Joe Hakim handles the marketing side of the business. And Megan and Joe's three-year-old son is now getting familiar with the store, rearranging the products on the shelves and trying to eat whatever cookies he can get his hands on.
Give him a couple years and you might be ordering from him, too.
Name and title: Megan Ackroyd, President
Year (or years) business opened: Detroit, 1949. Moved to Redford in '72. Additional store in Birmingham 1983-2004
What is one interesting job you held before owning/running your own biz: During college, I edited scientific manuscripts (mostly about fruit flies) for the head of the Entomology (bug) Dept at Michigan State
Favorite memory from working in the shop: It's a toss up between taking class field trips to the bakery, during which I got to see my grandma and dad (such innocent thrills as a kid, huh?), and working with some of my best high school friends from Marian and U of D. We had so much damn fun, but I can't speak for how my dad felt about all of the fun we were having. :) Those are by far my most treasured memories of working in the Birmingham location.
Favorite item you serve and why: Our meat pies. They are an instrumental part of our company's history and future, a unique product and the process for creating them is a multi-day labor of love.