02 April 2020, 10:52 AM
  • "Things have moved rapidly in the last few weeks, which has meant that we have had to learn to adapt and react quickly to changing circumstances to be able to operate and to function," says Aidan Monks of Lovingly Artisan
Reflections on Covid-19 from an artisan baker

“Our new mantra is all about safety, it’s paramount and our number one consideration. It’s the elephant in the room and a rather big elephant at that, which has taken over a considerable amount of headspace that’s for sure! 

“You may ask, ‘Well, what’s changed?’ - simply put, everything… that is apart for our customers love of for top quality artisan made sourdough breads and their newfound understanding for the health benefits it brings to the table.

“We’ve adapted and are getting by retailing to our customers in Manchester and the Lakes either through our two stores or through a series of home delivery partnerships; including Caterite Food Service and Winter Tarn Dairy to name a few.

“As for our wholesale business that has largely disappeared. It took five years to build up and less than 48 hours to disappear with the closure of bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels. We haven’t had the time to dwell on this but no doubt it will sink in and we will come back stronger, after all we can’t change what has gone but we can influence the future…

“As Covid-19 pandemic has unfolded we’ve taken steps to consolidate our range of sourdoughs, to focus on breads that deliver serious health and nutritional benefits and reconfigure our recipes to craft a whole new sourdough menu, made up entirely of deliciously healthy breads.

“We had to approach this in an entirely new way. We had to think about how to manage the production space, especially as historically the space was bustling… But that’s all changed, social distancing and the need to safeguard the team means space, lots of space and less people in the available space.

“Personal protective equipment and hygiene are the order of the day. We were fastidious before but now we may just be obsessive. No one other than the bakers can enter the bakery, every space is controlled, hygiene is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“By nature, a bakery is a sociable place, people are naturally curious and want to ask questions about the breads we bake. As a result, we’ve always encouraged customers, chefs, and fellow bakers to pop by and have a chat. But that’s all stopped everything is off limits none more so than at our retail shops at Plumgarth’s the Bread Store and Alty Market Bakery Shop, where we’ve put in some serious social distancing measures in place, we’ve created a no touch display, everything is pre-bagged, and we’ve stopped all tasting samples and we are only accepting contactless card payments.

“As you can imagine this all feels hugely alien, especially to us, we’ve always been about the experience, sharing knowledge, building friendships and who can forget the banter.  But it really matters so we’ve done what needed to be done to keep everyone safe and to reassure them we are serious about what we do and how we do it!

“And to help keep our staff safe we’ve also reduced our retailing hours, which breaks our hearts, but it’s important to limit the time the team are away from home. Our family members are doing the main core of the work, that’s the nature of a family business. We have stood most of our staff down, those with underlying health conditions, those who need other family members to work, and those that we could simply stay safe at home. After all we have a responsibility to the team, their families and happiness.

“Every day is different, speak to us in a month and things will be different again, we are strong and we believe in what we do, by hook or by crook we will get through this and like many other businesses and above all we will learn…  And our story will look very different in the future…”

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