Within just a year of being set up as a co-op, Dunbar Bakery has established itself as one of the best bakeries in the UK.
The co-operative, a runner up in a televised competition on ITV’s Britain’s Best Bakery, was designed to “put the heart back into the loaf and the community”.
In 2008, Dunbar’s long-standing bakery closed down due to a retirement. Eager to solve the problem, a group of people from the community decided to set up its own bakery.
With help from Sustaining Dunbar, a local development trust, they developed a three-year business plan for reopening the former Smith’s Bakery as a sustainable community-run enterprise.
“We chose to set up the co-op because we wanted to give people the opportunity to invest in the business and also to test the market and see what type of support was for this idea,” said Philip Revell, Project Co-ordinator of Sustaining Dunbar and Chair of Dunbar Community Bakery.
“The fact that it’s a co-operative makes a difference because it’s owned by the 660 mostly local people that have invested in the business. That means they are interested in the business’ success and that gives us a loyal customer base”.
They did not reach agreement for a long lease or purchase of the Smith’s premises, but in 2010 they signed a lease on the premises of a former newsagent.
The bakery opened for business in October 2011. By then over 300 people had invested more than £40,000.
Apart from providing high quality bread and pastries, they were also hoping to help breathe new life into the town centre by making it more attractive to shoppers and visitors.
The team of bakers is led by Ross Baxter, an award winning pastry chef who comes from a family of bakers. In the early hours of the morning the bakers mix, rise, ferment and shape the loaves for the next day. The savoury and patisseries are made during the day.
Doughs are slowly fermented and risen, then retarded in special linen cloths for a minimum of 16 hours. This technique is used to gain flavour and prolong shelf life naturally, as no chemicals are used in their bread.