Dunbar’s community bakery has got off to a flying start since opening its doors to the public in October.
Business has been so brisk that the project has had to take on extra staff to cope with the demand, while dozens more shareholders have come forward eager to get a steak in the business.
Dunbar Community Bakery chair Jane Wood said she has been delighted by response to The Bakery, which began trading on October 6.
Over 400 people have now come forward to buy shares in the project, which became Scotland’s first community-owned bakery earlier this year.
Like many small towns in Scotland, it was felt that Dunbar needed an innovative way to regenerate its town centre and create growth and investment.
A true community enterprise, The Bakery was set up as a community cooperative after the town’s last home bakery shut down in 2008 when its owners retired.
The community bakery was motivated by a desire to revive retail activity on Dunbar High Street, to promote healthy eating and to create local jobs.
Some 300 local residents contributed £38,000 through a share issue.
The rest of the start up capital came from grants and loans.
Ms Wood said that in its first few weeks, Dunbar Community Bakery had proved its social credentials.
“Two of our recruits are young people from Dunbar who had been unemployed for more than six months so we are delighted to be giving them a fresh start,” she said.
“I am also pleased to announce that dozens of new shareholders have come forward to support the bakery since it opened.
“We have raised an additional £3,000 in equity over the past two months, bringing the total to nearly £42,000 – within sight of our £50,000 target.”
Shareholders in this novel enterprise do not receive any dividend payment, but they are entitled to a 10 per cent discount every time they pop into The Bakery for a loaf of bread, a hot pie or some morning rolls.
“The really positive news is that daily sales have consistently been running at close to £1,000 per day – more or less in line with the forecasts of our business plan,” Ms Wood added.
“On an average weekday we sell between 100 and 200 loaves of bread, 300 to 400 rolls, 100 to 200 scones and 200 to 300 pies. Sales rise sharply from these levels on Saturdays, when the shop is especially busy.”
However, Ms Wood warned that the business has to keep costs under tight control, as The Bakery is not in profit yet.
She explained: “We have to pay back several loans raised to start the business and we need strong cash flow in order to meet our repayment schedule before hitting break-even at the end of year two.”
Scotland has lost more than half its home bakeries over the past 30 years as people have turned to supermarkets, chains of commercial bakeries and fast food outlets instead.
But The Bakery at Dunbar aims to capitalise on a growing demand for artisan bread made by hand in the traditional manner without chemical additives.
Ms Wood said that demand for bread, rolls, pies, scones, traybakes and cakes had been very strong over the last few weeks, with people coming from all over southern Scotland to sample The Bakery’s produce, and see a community enterprise in action.
‘The really positive news is that daily sales have been consistently running close to £1,000’
“We have made a few adjustments to the product range during the early weeks of trading.
“These steps have been taken in order to guarantee the consistent quality of our products and the financial sustainability of our operations,” she explained.
“We have improved the quality of ingredients used and we have slimmed down our core product range. This has led to a corresponding reduction in long overtime worked by our busy bakers.”
The Bakery has made some price adjustments during its first few weeks, to ensure that all its products provide a reasonable return on the cost of manufacture - but Ms Wood said that not all of the changes had been upwards.
“Despite the streamlining of our product range, we shall continue to experiment with new products on a regular basis,” she insisted.
“One recent innovation that proved popular was a light but tasty corn and spelt loaf.
“For people with an intolerance of wheat products, we have also started to bake special gluten-free loaves made from buckwheat, maize, rice, potato and tapioca flour.
“Any new products that really catch on will become part of our core range that is available on a daily basis.”
For the time being wholesale business at The Bakery will be limited in order to concentrate on building up a strong retail trade.
“But in due course we do hope to supply bread, rolls and other goods to a wide range of hotels, restaurants, canteens and specialist shops in the Dunbar area,” Ms Wood explained.
Another challenge facing The Bakery in the near future will be finding off-site storage space for bakery ingredients.
“We urgently need to supplement the space available in our small store room squeezed between the bakery and the shop,” Ms Wood said. “Extra storage space would enable us to order larger consignments of flour and other dry ingredients and thereby reduce costs.”
With management committee member Janet Barnes at the helm, The Bakery is shaping up to be a community project Dunbar can be proud of.
Ms Wood added: “I would like to say a huge thank you to The Bakery staff, who have literally worked night and day to make this community enterprise a success. Without their hard work, enthusiasm and good humour, we would not be where we are today.”