Laveli Bakery in West London has only been open nine months, but it’s already making a name for itself on the gourmet food blogs. "Have you tried the Laveli Bakery? It’s fantastic! It has been a bakery for years and seems to have new owners now - gorgeous bread (the grainy one is the best) and amazing patisserie..." says an entry on Tamarind and Thyme.
Laveli, formerly Alban Bakery, has had a complete refurbishment since Slovakian couple Libor and Veronica Matlovic bought it last October, funded by a private loan.
The location may be incongruous - in a down-at-heel high street somewhere between Shepherd’s Bush and Acton - but this couple will not be deterred. They have created an uncompromisingly top-quality bakery business, drawing on their love of bakery and their experiences, while working at top London bakeries including Euphorium and Boulangerie Jade.
Twelve different sorts of bread, and a rainbow of pastries, savouries and sweets, from framboise tartlets to clafoutis, are arrayed in the window and behind a long shiny glass counter stretching down the shop.
Until assistant Lucas was appointed recently, Libor baked everything from scratch all on his own. He puts in a 100-120 hour week in the bakery upstairs. Veronica, meanwhile, runs the shop and the café.
The couple had moved back to Slovakia after spending some years in London, when they heard that Alban bakery was up for sale. Their dream was to set up their own business, so they returned to the UK with their baby and put everything they had into the new venture, calling it Laveli - LA the first letters of their daughter’s name, VE for Veronica and LI for Libor.
The couple refitted the premises themselves, transforming it from a greasy spoon look, putting down wooden floorboards, with new wooden furniture and even a children’s play area. They plan to add some sofas and wi-fi access later on. There is the feel of Ikea to some of the decor; you can get everything in one place there and it was the best option as they don’t have a car, Libor explains.
From unreliable second-hand machinery to lack of a vehicle, there are financial constraints at every turn to challenge the most enterprising of minds. For instance, the couple would like to extend the business more into wholesale, but again, as their only vehicles are a bicycle and a pushchair, that is a tall order.
Yet, undaunted, Libor’s sister has started selling the bakery’s wares in nearby Acton Market and in Greenwich Market. Veronica says: "It was hard at Christmas, as it was really quiet. But now we have our regular customers and it’s really nice."
Word-of-mouth recommendations are bringing more and more new customers to the door, she adds.
=== The business ===
Laveli Bakery, 104 Askew Road, London, W12 9BL
Ownership: Libor and Veronica Matlovic
Brief: A family bakery bringing top quality artisan breads, pastries and savouries to the area
Funding: A private loan
Projected turnover: Not disclosed
Set-up costs: Not disclosed
Biggest outlay: A second-hand Selba oven, E3,000 (£2,680)
Range: 12 types of bread, including seeded bread and 100% rye, pastries changed daily, savouries and biscuits all produced completely from scratch
Staff: Baker, assistant baker, shop/café manager, two part-time staff
Suppliers include: FWP Matthews, KFF and Dairycrest
Opening hours: 7.30am to 6pm, seven days a week, with plans to extend those hours to bring in more customers
Contact: 0208 740 4456
=== Pros and cons ===
"We would like to build up the wholesale business and even open more shops in the long term. But, at the moment, we are just focused on the one shop," says Veronica. "You have to keep the quality up and offer good customer service. The rest will come, even if it is slowly.
"There were so many things that were not finished when we opened - menus, leaflets, even putting in sofas and wi-fi. If I did it again, I would get everything prepared before opening day - even if that meant a delay. There are so many things we have planned that we have not had time for yet," she adds.