High Street baker gets all fired up over new restaurant venture
PUBLISHED: 19:15 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 19:15 11 April 2019
After his family's bakery business outgrew its home on Woodbridge's ancient Thoroughfare, David Wright was determined to breathe new life into his high street.
The bakery ovens for the Cake Shop Bakery, a highly regarded award-winning business, moved to more suitable 2,000sq ft premises on the old Rendlesham airbase two years ago, allowing it to serve its growing client base, including the East of England Co-op.
At the same time, the business continued to sell its products from the Woodbridge shop, alongside a small café.
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But with the departure of the baking ovens, there was an empty space crying out for a new lease of life.
David, who was inspired by a host of young Suffolk food producers he worked with on a county produce pop-up shop under Waterloo Bridge in London in 2016, now hopes to expand his 22-cover café offering – which is called The Fire Station to reflect the history of the building – and operate it alongside the Cake Shop, which will continue to sell its artisan baked bread and cakes to loyal customers. He has already installed in-house coffee-roasting facilities, but wants to take his food and drink venture much further, with a more diverse offering.
The plan is to create something very ambitious – an open-plan café-restaurant with longer opening hours and the ability to bring the community together – and draw people into the town centre. The aim is to offer breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
He has teamed up with celebrated American cook DJ BBQ, also known as Christian Stevenson, a live fire chef and a leading name in the world of barbecue, to bring the 50 to 60-cover restaurant business to life. The TV chef, who became a good friend after they met at a festival in 2014, is set to move to Suffolk and will be involved in the new restaurant on a daily basis when it launches in the autumn.
They plan to sell bread, coffee, pizza, burgers, and wood-fired Sunday roasts, creating a buzzing seven-days-a-week 8am to 8pm operation which third generation baker David hopes will keep his beloved high street lively and vital.
David, who joined the business in 2012 having worked for top London bakery business Lily Vanilli, has already invested £300k over the last four years in transforming the business, and has now launched a fundraising drive via Kickstarter with the aim of raising a further £75k from the public. This will go towards providing tangible, front-of-house items which investors and customers can enjoy, such as kitchenware, tables and chairs, and pizza delivery bikes.
Just a few days from launch on April 4, the Kickstarter fundraiser had already reached nearly £14k with 164 backers and looks set to meet its target. Those who invest get ‘rewards’ in return, including produce.
“We are asking them to help support us to a certain extent, but we aren’t asking them to support the whole project,” explained David, who added that, importantly, they got something tangible in return.
The work in getting the business up and running will be full on, he admits, but he says he is prepared for the challenges ahead, and has received much support from other local businesses.
Despite coming second in a national list of best high streets, David believes his “fantastic” town centre needs to do better if it is going to stay healthy in the future.
“As an independent business, I want to be an example to everyone else. If we want it to be the best, we need to be an example to everyone else. If we want it to be the best, we need to promote it and make it the high street it could be – it’s got a massive potential,” he says.
But standing still is not an option, he believes, which is why he has been keen to expand the business since taking over the running of it from his father, Peter, who, at 74, still remains actively involved although he stopped baking three years ago.
“My grandparents started the business in 1946 after moving down from Northumberland. My grandparents’ family were all involved in the mining industry, working underground in pretty harsh conditions. They showed great courage to up sticks and make the trek all the way to sunny Suffolk, without knowing if they were about to make the biggest mistake of their lives,” he said.
“Over the years we’ve enjoyed success, endured difficult times and always worked hard to keep things going. When I came into the business and took over from my father I wanted to look back at what we had done and how we had done it – to use that as my inspiration for moving forward. That is still the case.”
While to some it might seem strange to add a restaurant element to the business, in reality it is something that was always there.
“My grandma Mim used to run it above the current shop – she also had a guesthouse. Mim and my grandfather Jonty did whatever they needed to do to make the business a success. The other thing they did was to get the right people involved.”