April 18, 2014 at 4:46 AM
GOOD FRIDAY: April 18, 2014 – Indeed, every year, all the hot cross buns
baked at the legendary JC Misquita Bakery Karachi turn into gold for the
owners! There is something providential, magical or even mystical that
happens at the bakery; year after year on Good Friday. I have been a
witness to this gold-rush for nearly three decades.
For curiosity, I have made an estimation of sales figures and they seem to
be quite mindboggling. It is difficult to fathom what makes this observable
fact so booming every year on Good Friday, is it taste, quality, ingredients,
aroma, the tradition of eating hot-cross buns on a day of fasting, or simply
The original JC (Joseph Cajetan) Misquita Bakery, a small outlet, opened
doors on Frere Street Saddar (Dr. Daud Pota Road) in 1858, almost 156
years ago. It is believed, Mr. Misquita owned close to 100 properties in
Karachi at that time. His son Manuel Misquita later served as the Mayor of
Karachi in 1946-47. The Misquita Wealth is altogether another story but the
success of Misquita Bakery to this day is a story I can throw some light on.
In 1967, the Misquitas gave away the bakery on contract to a friend and
colleague. The bakery maintained its quality while catering to a mix of
communities, Hindu, Parsi, Muslim and Christian, and also to every stratum
of society, rich or poor, that lived around the shop. Competition was tough
in those days being in the neighborhood of the big boys, PF Pereira,
Boman Irani, Adam Sumar, Empress, Lawrence and later United; but the
bakery held its ground, its quality, mystic and magic!
Early in 2000 when the old shops on the corner plot where Misquita Bakery
stood were demolished, the second owners moved the business to a lane
opposite the Bohra Jamatkhana, off Mansfield Street (now Syedna
Burhanuddin Road). After a couple of years, they sold the bakery and with
it, its invaluable brand equity and heritage. The third owners took over and
changed the name to “Al-Rehman Bakery” and to their surprise; started
losing customers and business. Within a year or so, they re-changed the
name to “New JC Misquita Bakery” – and both business and customers
This year I left home with my nephew Brendon at 4.30 a.m. (half an hour
earlier than last year) and upon reaching Saddar found 60 more people
ahead of us, some came as early as 3.00 a.m.! The shop was closed.
When the counter opened at 5.00 a.m. our turn came 45 minutes later
getting Token # 59 at about 5.45 a.m. By the time our turn came at the
pick-up counter, it was 7.15 a.m. I reached home at 7.25 and by 7.35 was
enjoying the most delicious and piping hot-cross bun, ever!
The annual experience at JC Misquita’s is like a pre-dawn picnic! You get
to meet and interact with people whom you’ve not met in years, some
forgotten friends and neighbors, early risers, story-tellers, taparu uncles
and made-over aunties, teachers, bikers, showmen, sleepy ‘susegad’
people and some funny folks. Indeed, quite a colorful community, all in
quest for, not just buns but the latest gossip – Goan to the core!
Now here is an estimation of conservative figures. The average number of
customers served per hour was 8, each customer was served with an
average number of 4 packets (each package containing 12 buns) that is 48
buns per customer. That makes 48 packets x 48 buns or 2304 buns in one
hour! The sale started at 5.00 a.m. and give-or-take, the sale counter was
operative on an average of 10 hours, that figure comes to 2304 buns x 10
hours of sale, equaling to 23040 buns x 2 days of sale (Holy Thursday and
Good Friday). The sum of which comes to 46080 buns in total. The cost of
each bun this year was approx PKR22, which comes to PKR-1013760
or PKR-1 Million in Sales Revenue, minus cost of sales. Not bad for 2
days of work! This hypothetical figure does not include this year’s Online
Sale (orders were stopped three days before Good Friday) and another
large quantity that is picked up by the old ‘Roti Walas’ on bicycles who go
door to door for sales of confectionery to their decades old customers.
BTW, please don’t take my word on these figures; I may be completely off
track! Make your own guesses.
Hot Cross buns are sold in several bakeries throughout the city on these
two days of Lent but the Hot Cross buns from Misquita Bakery have a
touch of gold!