The former ‘Mitchell’s Bakery’ is a local landmark. Purpose built as a bakery in 1901, it has only ever been in the ownership of two families: the Kelly’s and the Mitchell’s. Many people in the area, and football fans from all over the world, still fondly remember buying a pie on their way to the match or picking up a bag of cakes on their way to school. When we moved into the building we found a sign that reads ‘Cakes for auspicious occasions’ and we like to ponder just how many of those auspicious occasions in people’s lives the Mitchell’s cakes accompanied.
In the age of big supermarkets, running a profitable family business is difficult at the best of times. In the Mitchell’s case they faced the additional challenge of finding themselves in the middle of an area earmarked for demolition and were quite literally running out of customers as the community was broken up and residents moved away. In 2010, after being told their building was to be demolished and that they would be compensated, the family retired. Unfortunately soon after, the renewal scheme stalled and the city wasn’t able to go through with its promise.
At that time, the people involved with the 2Up 2Down project were looking for a base where they could run design workshops with young people. They saw the closing sign and asked the Mitchells if they could rent the space.
Over the coming months many residents stopped by while workshops were happening and many of them asked, ‘So, when are you starting to bake again?’
The young people’s conclusion was quick and clear; this had to be a bakery again!
Together with older residents, architects and design specialists, they researched different bakery spaces, compared designs they liked, thought about how to make the place energy efficient and took part in baking workshops at the Community College.
After a laborious process of writing business plans and preparing cash flows, with the support of specialist business advisers from the co-operative movement, the Homebaked Bakery Co-operative was established by a group of local residents, with the support of experts in baking and finance.
That summer the building went through the first stage of its refurbishment. One of the key features of the new design was a big doorway into the bakery kitchen, so ‘you can see what’s going on, what’s baking!’ Everyone agreed that we would want to keep the beautiful old tiles in the shop front and so we spent many painstaking hours freeing them of paint.
We featured in Liverpool Biennial 2012, the international festival of contemporary art, and hundreds of people came to visit at the end of ‘The Anfield Home Tour’. Shortly after that welaunched our crowd funding campaign ‘An oven at the heart of Anfield’ to cover start-up costs. The campaign surpassed all our expectations with 500 backers and nearly £19,000 being raised. On the back of this success we received a generous donation from Metabolic Studio in L.A. and managed to secure a government grant from Stepclever in North Liverpool.
Throughout this time our group grew extensively. We started baking, at first with just with a little oven in the back; sharing skills, inviting people for community baking classes, celebratory events and trial baking with professional bakers. During the crowd funding time we had started opening on match days, offering fresh soups and cakes. After our first match there was no going back. Fans were asking over Twitter and Facebook about the ‘next home game’s special’. So we kept on trading on match days, using the income to fund our test baking and market research. Finally the building where we had been shivering through long meetings started to warm up and smell of bread once more.
After a second phase of refurbishment in summer 2013 we started buying professional bakery equipment and finally our oven arrived at the beginning of October. We did the shop fit ourselves, with many hours of volunteer labour, using mostly materials from the building.
We also decided to invest in employing a business development manager to help with the launch of the business and the crucial first period of trading. We hired our amazing small team of staff: two local professional part-time bakers, a shop front manager/cook, a part-time shop front person and our first apprentice, supported by many more volunteers.
The business opened at the end of October 2013.
For the people involved in Homebaked it is important that the bakery becomes solid and self-sustaining. We’d like to make a profit, so we can re-invest it into training and community events.
Currently we are planning an outreach growing and baking scheme with local schools. Also in the pipeline is a young people’s business scheme.
Homebaked is made and shaped by the people who take part: our staff, our members and our customers. Our members vote on how we run the business, what our next steps will be, where we should invest any profit and how to use the space out of business hours.
If you are interested in being a part of Homebaked, join us as a volunteer and/or a member. Or just come and buy your bread with us. (And then maybe stay for a coffee and let us know what you think!)