Tom Herbert is a fifth-generation baker and director of Hobbs House Bakery, a multi-award-winning craft bakery, based in Gloucestershire
"When are you opening?" I have fielded this question a hundred times as tradesmen in high-visibility jackets squat and stretch all over our new shop in Cirencester. The soft opening date came and went, as square pegs were planed and sanded to seamlessly fit round holes and, as the beginning of the financial year, 1 May, sidled up to us, we opened.
With the need for sales pressing like a migraine on the frontal cortex, an unfinished shop was no excuse for not opening. In my scales of commerce, there is a self-conscious, eye-for-detail perfectionism and a desire to show organisational skills and competency in one pan, and the need for sales, willing and trained staff and waiting customers in the other. We had a no-brainer in the weightier pan and opened the shop in its unfinished state.
Once the all important location has been found, to open you only need:
l the right product for the people - check
l a trained team, with passion and knowledge a prerequisite - check
l an enterprising relationship with local traders, suppliers and the powers-that-be (bank manager, EHO and so on) - check
l and a table and a bumbag for the displaying and selling of bread - check.
Our new concept is tight and timeless. A small shop rammed to the rafters with handmade and fresh produce that builds on the farmers’ market model. With a beautiful glowing counter opening onto the thoroughfare, teasing passers-by with exquisite patisserie and challenging bread samples, customers don’t even have to come in to engage with this renewed notion of bakery.
We make bread that people want and are unable to get elsewhere. All the things we will sell to support the bread sales are punchy. Our little hatch shop is a theatre of all things bread and bakery, complete with star acts and key props - the bread chandelier has caused a stir! - and the loose style in which we have opened has allowed us to tweak the emphasis and find advantage that a fully functioning shop would certainly have denied us.
"Open" is a state of mind - you shouldn’t be restricted to 9-5. As a baker in want of customers, we had to be open to opportunity, feel the need and take sales where we could - and that’s a 24-6 operation.