The three-member co-operative was established by husband and wife team Dan and Johanna McTiernan with the aim of re-connecting the local community to the food it enjoys. It was at a bread baking course at River Cottage Kitchen that Dan got the baking bug and when Johanna was faced with deciding whether to return to work after maternity leave they decided to look at starting their own bakery.
Rather than invest in premises and equipment, they looked around to see what was already available. A pizza restaurant in Marsden — with state of the art stone bake pizza ovens — was closed during the day and its owner was only too pleased to let the new co-operative use the facilities, initially free of charge and then on a reasonable daily rent basis. The pizzeria also allowed the co-operative to sell its bread from its premises every Saturday morning where it consistently sold out.
The move to Slaithwaite coincided with the establishing of community-owned shop, the Green Valley Grocer, from which the bakery now operates. It also sells its bread through a variety of shops, markets and box schemes.
As a community-supported bakery, a subscription scheme allows people to place regular orders for their bread — supporting the business’ development. This Bread Club has not only helped the co-operative financially but also helped to generate a community feel for the business.
Two subscriptions are available: Bread and Roses, which provides the subscriber with a regular loaf each week and Let Them Eat Cake which includes speciality breads.
Dan said the decision to set the bakery up as a co-operative was a natural one: “We wanted the community to feel connected to the business and be part of it.
“Setting up as a workers’ co-operative means that if we’re able to involve other people as the business expands they can be brought in on an equal basis rather than us being managers and them being staff.”
The Handmade Bakery is also keen to get other people baking their own bread and now runs its own courses on home baking and community supported baking. Early booking is essential as many of its courses as far ahead as November are already sold out.