Robin Jones, managing director of Village Bakery, on the devastating blaze that struck business in August and how it has recovered.
"We’d just had our 8.30am meeting on Monday, 19 August, when the fire alarm went off.
Our well-drilled evacuation procedures kicked in and we had all staff safe and accounted for within two minutes. That was the most important thing, and for that I will be forever grateful.
After 10 minutes, I realised the awful scale of the problem. The immediate priority was to work with the fire service to stop the fire from spreading to our other bakeries.
At that point, we had to leave the fire service to do their job and our thoughts turned to how we could make the best of a terribly bad deal.
A neighbour offered the use of their board room as a command centre and we started planning how we could reorganise our production and maintain supplies as best we could to our customers.
By 3pm we had decamped to the offices of our gluten-free bakery and the collective determination of our remarkable team to overcome this huge set-back was palpable and deeply touching.
The weather was far sunnier than our mood, and roll sales were going through the roof, so we moved production to our bakery up the road in Minera.
Miraculously, the following morning we despatched our full complement of rolls to all of our customers, in full and on time.
We saw the very best of the Village People in those first 48 hours. We were bowled over by their reaction. Within two days we had installed a new gas main to our pancake bakery and it was up and running in four weeks. We launched our new range of Sourdough bagels as planned and the Welsh Cakes are now also back on line.
A storage shed, originally built to mitigate Brexit shortages, is being converted into a bakery to make scones and will be running in January. Meanwhile, we’re segregating part of our new gluten-free bakery to create a new production line for crumpets. By the beginning of April, we will have reinstated 100% of our production capacity. But we’re not stopping there. We are accelerating our plans to build a new, 210,000 sq ft bakery.
It has been incredibly painful for everybody here at Village Bakery, but in the long run we’re going to be bigger and better. It’s important we learn lessons from this devastating fire and share them with the industry. We had a modern, exceptionally clean bakery, so if it can happen to us, others are potentially at risk.
We must come together as an industry to stop this happening to anybody else."