Thursday, 25 August 2011

In search of the right location

Tart & Toast is still on the look out for the right place to start a bakery and bread school.

I had an interesting chat with the Twickenham Town Planner who was looking for an Artisan Bakery to open in Twickenham high street. Evidently, there is a foodie community evolving with the well-established Sandy's fishmonger leading the way followed by the recently opened Laverstoke Park Farm’s retail shop. Owned by Jody Scheckter, this is their first retail shop supplying organic beef & buffalo produce made on their farm in Hampshire - their beef biltong & smokey dried buffalo sausage is really delicious!

Natasha Carr, Twickenham's town planner has been really helpful sending me properties that she thinks may be suitable. Both my parents grew up in this area and I lived in Whitton for a short period so I am familiar with the area and extremely fond of Richmond upon Thames.

Apparantly, Twickenham is undergoing a regeneration programme with investment into the local area. Footfall increases during the rugby matches and the commercial estate agents are also quick to remind potential investors that 2012 Olympics plus the Rugby World Cup in 2015 are just around the corner.

But, having viewed a few properties I have some reservations. The high street is extremely busy with major bus routes, the rents are high and the space is small.

One property, currently trading as a charity store, was located in the heart of the high street and had the highest footfall so was worth considering. On further investigation at £25,000 p/annum + rates of £8,500 it came with some expensive baggage, namely sewer issues, rodents, electrical faults, no hot water etc etc. This did put me off somewhat, but what really concerned me was whether there was a genuine market for my bread here. It worried me. The high street was busy but I wasn’t convinced they would be interested in paying £3+ for a sourdough and critically how many would I need to sell to pay off this lease !!!

I had a coffee outside an independent café on the street, imagining opening a bakery here. Honestly, I didn’t like the noise or the buses, motorbikes and cars hurtling past. Perhaps I am a country girl at heart??

I spoke to some of the local residents. The response was that there was already several stores selling bread - M&S, Tesco Express, Waitrose, Iceland, Greggs, Belmonts but there was no mention of a desire for Real Bread. Then I came across a cobbled street off the main high street called Church Street, this was quieter and had a few nice eateries and some independent boutique style shops. Although, the only place available was an ex jewellery store (A1) tucked around the corner - maybe? I decided to compare this type of location with nearby and affluent Richmond.

Throughout the afternoon I saw 15 properties. The competition was fierce in Richmond with Paul’s and many other popular patisserie chains. I adore Richmond Hill – although they already have a lovely bakery & café. The Richmond Hill Bakery would be my dream store, they also own the butcher and greengrocer so clearly not short of a bob or two.

The clientele certainly seemed more open to artisan breads and it felt altogether more ‘leafy’. But you certainly pay for it - the rent here was between £30,000-£45,000 + rates. Many of the high street chains such as Costa and Starbucks act as loss leaders here. They pay top whack to have a flagship store in this prestigious location. For me, this would be my only store and so I couldn’t afford to make a loss in the long run.

After a long afternoon we decided to rest our heads and sit by the river, listen to the buskers playing their guitar and enjoy the last of the summer sun.

The search continues…

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting Vanessa - still enjoying your blog immensely. Regards Barbara