St Stephen’s Bakery has been owned and run by the same family since its conception in 2006. After 11 years of owning and running the popular bakery, original owners Susan and Kelvin Lock took a step back and sold the business to their daughter, Stacey, in August 2017. OM had the pleasure of meeting the new owners Stacey and Sam Millard to find out about their new business venture, The Bakers Lounge and what made them both give up their successful careers to change their lives and take on a bakery.
Switching careers and making life-changing decisions is certainly a family trait within the walls of St Stephen’s Bakery. Stacey’s parents, Susan and Kelvin Lock, distinctly changed their careers in July 2006 when they bought the bakery located on Plympton Ridgeway next to Iceland; the decision saw Susan go from being a social worker and Kelvin a mechanic; to kneading dough and baking pasties all day every day.
This trait was mirrored by daughter Stacey and Son in law Sam who followed the same path in August 2017 when they took ownership of the bakery. Stacey, an occupational therapist and Sam who had worked in motor-home sales for 10 years decided to swap their normal day jobs to become business owners and bakers.
In November 2015, after owning the bakery for nearly 10 years, Susan approached Stacey about potentially purchasing the bakery from them. It was something Stacey had never considered, especially with three children and an established career of her own.
“I just thought, mum don’t be so ridiculous, I have three kids, I don’t have the time or money, and I don’t know anything about running a business”
The seed was then planted and after mentioning it to Sam that evening, it took around a week for them to decide to make this huge leap of faith and take on the family business.
“It was now or never, if they sold it to somebody else, we would look back and completely regret that decision.”
Not only has the bakery been a huge part of the family for over a decade, it was the very reason Stacey and Sam met. With two meddling mothers and both recently out of relationships, the pair were introduced in 2009 and have been happily married ever since with three children and now a family bakery to run.
“My sisters and I have all worked there at some point. We would always dip in at peak busy times and cover when needed”
Having taken over St Stephen’s Bakery in August 2017, Stacey and Sam have focused on growing the business through and through, ensuring they have the necessary processes in place, as well as always looking at new trends in the market and being ahead of the game.
If taking on one business wasn’t bold enough, Stacey and Sam threw themselves into their new venture, The Baker’s Lounge which launched on the 5th July 2019 as an extension of the bakery. Stacey has always been interested in expanding the bakery and when the previous owner of the unit next-door approached the pair in September 2018, they couldn’t have been happier and they certainly haven’t looked back since.
“We are really glad he spoke to us and offered the unit to us first because the Ridgeway is a really busy high street and there are always new things popping up”
With a keen eye for detail, Stacey delved into planning out every aspect of The Baker’s Lounge, from the signage, the equipment, the tiling and even sourcing the tables and chairs herself. Every little detail was carefully considered, the atmosphere is calm and rustic being the perfect place to eat in and enjoy a coffee and slice of cake.
The decision was made to remove the seating from the bakery to reduce queues, making it exclusively take-away and have The Baker’s Lounge as their eat-in section for customers. This decision has reduced waiting times for the bakery and increased sales in The Baker’s Lounge with customers choosing to eat in and enjoy the relaxing environment.
The Ridgeway is very competitive for bakeries, cafes and coffee shops, but with a well-established bakery, The Baker’s Lounge has thrived in the first couple of months being open.
“I felt sick on the first day; I kept worrying if anybody was going to come in. It’s quite nerve-wracking and you just doubt yourself, but the first day was really busy, lots of customers came to support us”
The Baker’s Lounge has allowed the bakery to expand and become more productive with their 15 members of staff being able to focus on the customers waiting in the queues, as well as opening up space for a brand new kitchen.
The new kitchen has played a huge part in the growth of St Stephen’s Bakery, with more room to experiment and explore new ideas.
Sam explains: “When we go to food trade shows it is clear in the food industry market that it’s all about gluten-free and vegan products and our current kitchen didn’t allow us to produce these products”
The new kitchen allows the space and time for Stacey to experiment with new products and ingredients. Now being able to explore gluten-free after wanting to tackle it since taking over the bakery.
Having finally perfected the pastry for her gluten-free pasties, the bakery launched its gluten-free range on Monday 16th September. Gluten-free baked goods including pasties and cakes, all handmade in the bakery are now available to purchase. And with veganism on the rise, there is no better time to experiment with new products to suit everybody.
“Being inclusive was a huge thing to me, I want everybody to enjoy coming into the bakery and there be a choice for absolutely everyone”
Both Stacey and Sam have taken a huge role in the bakery, both throwing themselves into baking and serving customers, as well as administration. Sam spends his time perfecting pastry, whilst Stacey delves into baking cakes which is her real passion.
Many things separate St Stephen’s Bakery above other local bakeries, from the legendary pasties, friendly atmosphere and their use of all local suppliers. But above all else, everything is handmade and baked fresh on the day, sold piping hot straight out of the oven.
It is clear to us that Stacey and Sam have an immense passion and drive to make every aspect of the bakery flourish and grow; both often working 12-hour shifts to get everything done and putting customers’ needs first.
“We’re very determined, we always think whatever it takes we are going to make this happen and we always find a way to do it”
The future is looking bright for the bakery with Stacey and Sam working hard to perfect and establish their vegan and gluten-free baked goods, as well as views to refurbish the bakery and update the equipment soon.
Quitting their day jobs and making this brave and bold move two years ago has certainly paid off for Stacey and Sam. Despite lots of hard work and long hours, determination and motivation from both Stacey and Sam has seen St Stephen’s Bakery continue to thrive as it has for over a decade and grow in the heart of Plympton; and with local support, they will go from strength to strength.
For more information about the St Stephen’s Bakery, their products and The Bakers Lounge, head over to their website on www.ststephensbakery.co.uk or call on 01752 330330.
Website: www. www.ststephensbakery.co.uk
Unit 6, St Stephens Place, Ridgeway, PL7 2ZN