Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Raising Dough

Leigh Sparks - Stirling Retail

A few months ago in an email exchange arising from one of my posts, I learned about a retail business start-up that might come to fruition. Well, this week (6th October) it happens.

Dunbar is to see the opening of what is claimed to be Scotland’s first community owned artisan bakery called “The Bakery”!

In 2008, the town’s last bakery closed. Since then over 300 mainly local residents have raised £38K to open a new high street bakery, and drawn in support from a range of other organisations.

Set up as an Industrial and Provident Society (a community co-operative), shareholders will not receive a dividend, but will instead be entitled to a 10% discount on all baked goods purchased at The Bakery.

Profits will be ploughed back into the business and the local community. This is not a volunteer operated business, but one that is professionally managed and run – something that has meant eligibility for some grants has been problematic.

The story since 2008 appears not to be plain sailing, and some of the pitfalls are noted on their website. But at a time of closures, doom and gloom, it’s nice to have a positive story to read about and mention.

I have no stake in The Bakery, but do know some of the people involved – and they have also been involved in some other retail-led regeneration stories. I do not know if The Bakery will work/succeed, but wish it all the best. A Scottish artisan bakery with a local and organic ethos, and the support of many local residents, deserves to succeed.

What I hope though, is that this will not be last such story we hear of this type. The recession causes problems but it also creates some opportunities. One of the lessons for Scotland may be that local start-up enterprises and businesses will have to take up the slack from the multiple withdrawal from locations.

This location and community involvement will not necessary be easy, but it will provide a sense of place and difference as well as vital local provision and jobs. Let’s hope there is enough support and skill out there to make such things happen.

More critically we also have to understand what barriers there are to this local entrepreneurial activity. It is over three years and many twists and turns since Dunbar’s original bakery closed due to retirement; why does it take so long and have so many obstacles in the way? Towns, villages and other places need facilities and development now, not in some distant future.

If you’re in Dunbar, go and have a look – comment here on what you find. Better still buy some bread and other goodies – and if you like it, spread the news. We need more distinct and diverse local retailers to add diversity and specialism, in Dunbar and across Scotland.

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