Legendary confectioneries – the Megay’s

If the confectionery in Miskolc could have a centre, where the best confectionery shops in the city operated, it was Széchenyi Street. Not surprisingly, as it was the easiest to lure passers-by in the main street to the store for some goodies. Especially if you could get a mouth-watering dessert that even Archduke Joseph praised. The success of Megay Confectionery could not be broken even by an accidental gas explosion; this week we’ll take a look at the history of this legendary confectionery.

In Miskolc, the first reference to the confectionery craft appeared in the city in 1834. A certain Rudolf Zuan "sugar cake maker" applied for a residence permit from the city of Miskolc. Initially, like in other cities in the country, French and Italian influences predominated; the people of Miskolc sought to learn the craft mainly in France.

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Róbert Megay's parents came from Gyulafehérvár on the paternal branch, Kiskaránd and Oradea on the maternal branch. His parents lived in Zalatna initially, and four of their 11 children were also born here. The family moved from here to Fogaras and then to Kassa. The city of Košice was the final station for the parents, the settlement, and according to the surviving legacy it seems also the existence, because the family was very wealthy.

Megay’s schooling was already related to Kassa, where he graduated from the state high school. He was 15 years old when his workbook was issued in Kassa, according to which he first became an assistant to Ferenc Kriegerbuck, confectioner in Kassa, and a year later, in 1885, he acquired his professional knowledge beside master György Naukum. In 1888, he already worked with István Miskolczy in Rimaszombat.

After working honestly throughout the five years, only the master’s exam was missing. Where and when this happened is a mystery, but we know that at the time of his master's exam he was already engaged to master Miskolczy's daughter. The young couple's first trip from Rimaszombat led to Miskolc, where Megay opened her first shop. The shop was located on the ground floor of Pál Rósenfeld's house in Széchenyi Street at that time, which could be today's No. 36 Széchenyi Street. We don't know much about the first years of its operation, but based on a photo of the store's staff, it seems that in the short time after the store opened, there were already 8 people working in the confectionery.

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Based on the interior of the store, it was one of the most prestigious confectioneries in Miskolc. According to an amateur photo, the store had a modest appearance from outside, but this was compensated by the interior maximally. Unfortunately, the furniture did not survive, as there was a gas explosion in the confectionery in 1909.

The immediate antecedent of the accident was that Megay had previously leased a part of his store to Sándor Rósenberg, who wanted to set up his own business there. During the rebuilding, various installation work was carried out in the room, so they were not so surprised when they smelled gas in the confectionery in the early afternoon on the day of the accident, and the gas taps were then closed. A little later, at half past four, Megay went up to the attic room and lit a cigarette next to one of the gas lamps, at which point the explosion occurred. According to the daily newspaper Miskolcz Diary on 25 February, “... the explosion was terribly strong. It pushed the coffee girl in the coffee kitchen over the wide marble table. At the moment of the explosion, there was also Mrs. Róbert Megay, who was not injured seriously, but could not speak in her terror. The two pastry girls were also in the shop. Luckily, they were in the left corner of the patisserie facing the street, where the explosion did no damage. The moment the gas exploded, the large mirrors on the wall, separating the coffee kitchen from the confectionery room, shattered and the force of the explosion busted the huge shop-window of the confectionery as well. ”

VF_2016_87_1.jpgThe damage assessment reveals that the explosion also crushed the equipment at the back of the confectionery and the coffee kitchen. Since the accident happened on the back side towards Szinva, it is understandable that the parts were damaged mainly here. Miraculously, the goods, cakes and candies placed on the tables remained intact. However, Megay suffered severe burns. His hair, beard, moustache had completely roasted, his neck and face were full of severe burns, and his hands were also burned. His neighbour dr. Henrik Singer, a hospital chief physician, was the first to provide the wounded with medical aid. He was taken care of in his apartment all night, later he was transferred to a sanatorium.

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However, the confectionery continued to operate. A postcard dated 1910 addressed to Megay's mother, Mrs. Gusztáv Megay, shows that not only the family, but also the confectionery moved to a new location after the explosion. The interesting thing about the greeting card is that its writer indicated on it which house he had been in before, "I was here before" and where he moved, "this is my house." This is clear proof that he gave up his shop and apartment after the accident and then bought the building on the corner of Szemere and Széchenyi Streets, which no longer exists, where he set up his new shop in a year. The conjunction of Széchenyi and Szemere Streets for many is just the "Megay corner" even today. Interestingly, after the demolition of the building, another concept was connected to the site, the “electric policeman”. After installing the police lights standing on a concrete mounting (1957-1958), the traffic lights as a landmark and meeting point lived in the memory of the people of Miskolc for a long time.

What delicacies were available at Megay’s? According to the surviving price list, Tyrolean "candied" fruit, caramelized chestnuts and chestnut purée. In addition, the store also held a large selection of different compotes, but Milka and Lindt chocolates were also on offer. The most famous dessert was the “Bohemian cake”, with which Mr. Megay even won an award in Brussels. Unfortunately, no material memories of the "Bohemian cake” survived. It is certain that it was chocolate-filled, square-shaped, and cost 2 koronas.

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The meeting of the already mentioned Archduke Joseph of Austria and the Bohemian cake is known from the reports of the newspapers. The majestic guest visited Miskolc for the second time in 1910, when he observed a military exercise in Szikszó. From there he arrived in Miskolc by car, where the award-winning cake was served after the meal. According to the Miskolcz newspaper, the next day Megay received a letter requesting: “… Please send two pieces of “Bohemian” cake with the attached postal delivery note to His Imperial and Royal Majesty immediately. His Majesty Archduke Joseph liked the cake very much and he wants to surprise Her Majesty with this consignment. Only send fresh, impeccable goods, because it is very important to be good. You should not include a letter in the package or attach an invoice. Yours sincerely, Baron Bottmer." We do not know how much they liked the cake, but it is certain that later Megay’s products became available not only in Miskolc, but also nationwide and even abroad.
Not many documents have survived about the war years. Although Megay was not a soldier, he belonged to the 34th infantry regiment of Miskolc. In the years following the war, the business continued to operate smoothly, as evidenced by inspection sheets. The master died on 26 April, 1922, at the age of 52, and his early death was certainly due to his injuries from the explosion, which he never managed to recover from. He was laid to rest in the cemetery in Mindszent, his tomb stood until the extension of Szilágyi Dezső Street and the section of the No. 3 highroad passing through Miskolc was built.

VF_2016_95_1.jpgMrs. Róbert Megay continued to run the confectionery as a widow, as she came from a confectionery family as well. Although his widow who was familiar with professional knowledge closed the old store later, she applied for a new industrial license in 1926. The upstairs part of the house at 42 Széchenyi Street may still have belonged to the family, but the workshop was already located at 13 Vörösmarty Street. In April 1928, Mrs. Megay liquidated this workshop and relocated it to 78 Széchenyi Street. The head of the leased store was actually the oldest boy Gusztáv Megay at that time. Later, in 1935/1936, the address and name directory of Miskolc no longer mentions the name Megay among the tenants. However, in the room on the ground floor at that time, we can find the cake shop of Mihály Schatz, who may have been the successor of the Megays. This is how the history of the legendary confectionery ended, whose heyday was undoubtedly the period from 1905-1910.

Translated by Zita Aknai

Sources:

Dobrossy István: Megay"-Cukrászdák Kassán, Rimaszombaton és Miskolcon

Dobrossy István: A cukrászdák története, cukrászok és más „édes"-mesterségek Miskolcon


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