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Meet the bakery owners keeping tummies happy in lockdown

By Heather Large | Brownhills | Entertainment | Published:

Happiness is a piece of cake, according to bakery owners Laura Tarburton and Tina Williams.

Tina Williams and Laura Tarburton

They have been keeping customers smiling with home-made sweet treats and tasty savouries.

Together they run Bean and Baked micro-bakery and coffee shop in Brownhills, which opened in August last year.

When the country went into lockdown in March and they had to close their doors, it was a worrying time for the fledgling business.

But the friends put their heads together and decided that as their customers could no longer come to them for a brownie or a scone, they would send the cake to them.

They began a local delivery service as well as a ‘cake by post’ service, sending brownie boxes, blondie boxes, family cookie boxes and rocky roads to recipients across the country.

“It was quite frightening, but we knew we had to do what we could to keep money in the business. We were able to put our staff on furlough so it was just the two of us.

“It’s been really hard work, but it was never an option to give up and rest on our laurels, we had to keep going. We set our website up in the fourth week of lockdown and it went through the roof.

Laura with vintage coffee machine Doris

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“The support locally has been really good and people have been sending cakes to their family and friends. By week 12 we had received 500 orders. It’s kept us going and it’s kept people really engaged on social media,” says Laura, 33, who lives in Brownhills.

In recent weeks they have expanded their range to include savoury platters featuring cured meats, bread, cheeses, fruits, nuts, snacks, crackers, olives, fruits and pickles and afternoon tea boxes, which proved particularly popular for Father’s Day.

“We’re cooking and giving people what we love eating ourselves. It’s been evolving every week. People tend to buy gifts for people and we put messages in the boxes. We’re waiting for a proposal, we would love for someone to use one of our cake boxes to propose,” says Laura.

In April, they also took delivery of an attractive, converted horsebox, which meant they could offer a collection and takeaway service, including barista-style coffees, outside their premises at Brownhills Community Centre. “We’re both creative with ideas and we’ve been able to react to what people want. We took everyone off furlough to open the horsebox. It’s a bit quirky and something a bit different for people to see.

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“It’s been a saving grace. It’s also taught us a lot because it’s quite a small space but you don’t actually need a lot of space to serve people,” says Laura.

They first began working together when Tina, who has a home-baking business, Tina’s Temptations, started supplying Laura’s other coffee shop The Reading Rooms in Pelsall with cakes.

Lemon and blueberry cake

Tina looks after the baking side of the business with Laura’s duties including everything from promotion to the accounts.

“We went to the same school but we were in different years. We work well together and I think it’s because we’ve both got our own roles,” says Laura.

The also both share a love of food and coming up with new ideas and recipes in the kitchen.

“I’ve been baking since I was a child, my nan taught me to bake,” says Tina, aged 37 and from Burntwood.

“There’s nothing nicer than baking something for someone else to enjoy and you see it bring a smile to their face,” she adds.

Their dedicated baking days are Monday and Tuesday depending on the demand. “We have mad days where we think we’ve baked enough but we run out and we have to start baking again,” says Tina.

“Cake makes people happy,” says Laura. “Our homemade sausage rolls are very popular and I think people come for the sausage rolls as much as they come for the cake,” she adds.

Providing high quality locally roasted coffee is also important to them and taking pride of place in their coffee shop is their vintage two lever coffee machine, affectionately known as Doris.

Rebecca Sheppard in the Horsebox

“She just looks like a Doris and makes a really nice cup of coffee,” explains Laura.

The friends say they have been extremely grateful for the support they’ve received from the Brownhills community. “We’ve got Chasewater and Holland Park nearby and people have been buying a coffee or a sausage roll as a treat to take with them or picking up a piece of cake to enjoy on the way back,” says Laura.

“We’re got a lovely customer base, I really enjoy getting to know them, and we’re a loved part of the community,” she adds.

Although the go-ahead has been given for cafes to re-open from today, they have not decided when to re-open the doors of the Bean and Baked coffee shop.

“We’re a bit cautious and we want to make sure the timing is right and people will be safe. The horsebox is working really well, we’ve had people bringing their own chairs and sitting outside,” says Laura.

She believes they have learned a lot from the past few months and it’s given them the opportunity to spend more time doing what they love.

“It’s brought new challenges and it’s made us fall in love with it all over again. It’s taught us to slow down, that we can’t be everything to everyone and the importance of doing a few things really well rather than lots of things. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing our customers again and having the hustle and bustle in here because we do miss the customers,” she tells Weekend.

The Bean and Baked horsebox is open from 10am until 2pm Wednesday to Sunday. For information see www.facebook.com/beanandbaked

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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