Manuel Lence Fernández

Category: Businessman
Birth Date: - ( † 26th september 1957)
Birth Place: Santiago de Miranda (Lugo)

This is the story of an entrepreneur who started from nothing. In 1890, when he was fourteen, he left Santiago de Miranda (Lugo), his native village, with the illusion of getting a better life. He had no money for the ticket, so he decided to try Madrid, where he arrived walking and helped by some muleteers in some sections of the way. In Madrid, he found his first job in a bakery, where he began to serve as an errand boy. During the first years, his life passed in the bakery itself, where he even had a corner to sleep among the flour bags. He combined his hard work as a baker looking for other jobs like selling newspapers at Puerta del Sol to increase his income and help his family. That bakery, the so-called “Viena Capellanes”, belonged to the famous writer Pío Baroja and his brother Ricardo, a famous painter. Manuel Lence shined soon for his skills, responsibility and ability for work to such an extent that he was in charge of the business when he was only eighteen. The Baroja brothers noticed Manuel’s abilities and helped him read and write as well as calculus, letting him run the business while they devoted themselves to their artistic activities.

At the beginning of the 20th century there was an expansion of products (pastries, cold meat, tearooms...) and an increase of the points of sale (up to 16 branches during the 30’s). During those years, Manuel bought the business to the Baroja brothers thanks to the economic aid of a group of investors he convinced to trust his ability and the possibilities of the business as well as the physical aid of some of his brothers he had been taking from Galicia.

Manuel Lence was an autodidact and had a conviction and leadership ability that served him throughout his life to excite everybody around. He had also an incredible imagination and commercial vision. This was the first industry in Madrid that had a motorized delivery vehicle instead of the traditional horse-drawn vehicles of that time. It was also one of the first companies that got the distinction "Proveedores de la Casa Real"; the institution even authorized the exclusive chocolate brand "Chocolates Reina Victoria". With the Second Republic in 1934, the chocolate brand was forced to give up its ‘Royal’ attributes and change its name for "Chocolates Victoria" (they still keep the moulds with the Queen, which was crushed by law)

During the 30’s, Viena Capellanes put impressive delivery vehicles into circulation, the so-called “autogiros”. They were vans with curious bodywork with shapes similar to the autogiro by Juan de la Cierva, which had their respective articulated helix sets. One of the “Autogiros” has recently been restored and is still used as an advertising stand of the company.

During the hard post-war years, Manuel Lence tried to reconstruct the company that had been destroyed by the effects of the Civil War and in spite of those hard times, he managed to recover an important commercial and productive structure.

He died in 1957 without direct inheritors, so his brother Antonio took charge of the company. Antonio had been his right-hand man during the hard years they worked together. Viena Capellanes has lasted to the present day always in the hands of succeeding generations of the Lence Family.