Scotland’s Stephens Bakery has seen massive change over the past 145 years, from different owners to adapting its offering. MD Andre Sarafilovic takes us on a journey through the business’ history.
Stephens Bakery has a rich history complete with entrepreneurial spirit, expansion and even a ghost story or two. Its journey began in 1873 with 23-year-old William Stephen, who worked as a baker for a local firm, but was sacked for being a ‘ringleader’ in a strike over pay.
However, far from letting this deter him, William published an advert outlining his intention to branch out on his own and, by 1878, had opened a bakery at 15 Gibb Street, Dunfermline, premises still used by the firm as an office. Another shop opened in 1891.
William sold the business to Charles Bowman in 1927, but by the 1930s trade had slowed. Bowman promoted employee Alex Terris to foreman with the instruction to “make a go of it or I sell out”. And Alex made such a go of it that he bought the firm from Bowman in 1942. The Terris family still own Stephens Bakery – and have grown it into a multimillion pound business with 14 sites across Dumferline and further afield, supplied by a 40,000sq ft bakery with plans for further expansion in the near future.
“Since then there have been dramatic changes,” says André Sarafilovic, Stephens Bakery MD. “We always like to think of ourselves as innovative.”
André joined in the early 1980s as an apprentice with a love for baking, and the owner’s daughter, Rona, kept him there. The pair married in 1986, and André took over the business a few years later. “We are always invigorating and refitting our shops,” he says. “We introduced salad bars many years ago, then started rolling out our convenience offer.”
Indeed, a joint venture with c-store operator David Sands allowed his stores to have a fresh bakery offer to compete with the in-store bakeries of the multiples, but with minimal staff and floor space. The concept, initially rolled out to two stores, grew to 29 before these were sold to the Co-operative a few years ago. Mobile snack vans followed in the early 2000s, with seven still on the road.
On the product side, André says morning rolls and steak bridies are the best-sellers by far, but it is adapting all the time, with a healthier balanced range comprising products under 400 calories.
In January, it opened Scotland’s first (and the UK’s first standalone) drive-through bakery. The project was led by André and Rona’s daughter Talia and her husband Jordan is “exceeding all expectations”, says André. “They’re driving us as hard as ever, so I expect things to keep moving forward.”
1873 – William Stephen announces in the local paper that he is to open a bakery
1927 – The business is sold to Charles Bowman. William Stephen passes away a year later
1942 – Alexander ‘Sandy’ Terris purchases Stephens Bakery
1983 – Andre Sarafilovic joins the business as an apprentice
1981 – The flagship store on Guildhall Street is fully refurbished
1997 – A partnership with David Sands sees Stephens open its first concession bakery
2018 – Stephens opens the first drive-through independent bakery in Scotland, run by Talia and husband Jordan (pictured)