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Joseph Lowry Stewart

day the following year to North America, he visited several bakeries to evaluate new trends and ideas. Like Harland and Davidson, the man from Crossgar displayed a creative and pioneering spirit. He made his own bread, initially above the Greenville store; however, it became so popular that in 1929 he had to build a new bakery on the adjacent Greenville Road. His Tip-Top bread eventually became better known as (the still extant) Sunblest loaf. To cope with demand for his cheap butter, he installed the first automatic weighing and wrapping machine in the province. One concept from North America which he introduced to his shops was that of self-service; this was first employed at his store on Cregagh Road (now Tesco’s) – the only disadvantage was that it operated a one- way system and, if you missed an item, you had to go round and queue again!

He obtained a good price for the produce he purchased in the mar- kets because he bought in bulk and was able to offer cheaper prices to his customers. He constantly checked and assessed his competi- tors, and undercut their prices. Te absolute principle by which he traded – as implied in the company name – was ‘cash only’, and this applied also to the home delivery service which he pioneered in the 1920s. No exceptions were permitted. It was a policy which indisputably worked and was consolidated by his personal reputa- tion for honesty and integrity. During the Second World War he refused to entertain the offer of a contraband load of sugar from the Irish Free State, and annoyed his (second) wife by insisting that any of their butter ration which had not been used should be returned to the Government.


Joe Stewart was a notoriously demanding employer – no-one was allowed to sit in his stores even during lengthy shifts – but he asked nothing of his employees which he did not perform himself. When


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