Home » Business Questions: Peter Knott and Steve Crate – Evershot Village Bakery

Peter Knott and Steve Crate of Evershot Village Bakery
Peter Knott (left) and Steve Crate (right) of Evershot Village Bakery

Business Questions: Peter Knott and Steve Crate – Evershot Village Bakery

Describe your business

We are still striving to be a traditional, 1960s-style family bakery. We are old-fashioned, and we are still making products that were made with exactly the same recipe, the same systems, more than 100 years ago. We are still making things with tender loving care — giving it time — which is where the flavour comes from.

Nowadays everybody pours chemicals in to speed things up, which means there’s no flavour.

And that’s why we are still here — it works.

How long has it been going?

There has been a bakery here in Evershot since 1857. It was a girls’ school before that. We look at it that we are just looking after it for the next people. We both worked for our predecessors and we bought them out in 1995 so this is our 20th year this year. So we are just starting to get the hang of it.

Are you a family business?

We are not related, but Pete’s son Tom works for us and my wife Jackie works for us. Pete’s mum runs the shop for us in Chard, both my children have worked for us in the past; Pete’s daughter and his dad have worked for us; my father-in-law drove the van for us…

What was your first-ever job?

Steve: It was shelf-filling in a supermarket. When I left school they gave me full-time job as “under-manager” and they move you round the shop until you can run each department. When I got to the bakery I thought: “I like this, can I be an apprentice?” They said no, so I Ieft to be an apprentice in Shaftesbury.

Peter: I have always been a baker. That’s the only job I’ve ever had. I started off as a Saturday boy and then they offered me an apprenticeship in Ilminster.

How did you come to be doing what you do now?

We kind of wobbled in to this! Our predecessor offered a buy-out to the staff and the only two people foolish enough to stand up and say: “We could do that!” was us.
So we went round the banks and scratched together enough money to make it all happen and the rest is history.

Bread in the oven at Evershot Village Bakery

What are the biggest challenges of running a business in West Dorset?

Probably staffing, staff management and the day-to-day problems. Finding staff in the sticks, as we are, is quite difficult. We have been lucky in that quite a number of staff have moved to the village or lived here. Currently the furthest distance to get here is from Ilchester, which is quite a distance to travel when you start work at 3am.

We find baking the easiest bit — it’s what we do.

And the benefits?

This is a Victorian building, not designed for purpose and we probably outgrew it ten years ago. But if we moved to an industrial site, it would be the kiss of death. We are a traditional village bakery and we get people from miles around who come to see the bakery. It’s an amazing place to live — we call it the bubble: the news happens somewhere else.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Our parents and families.

Three key words to describe the way you do business:

Quality and service.

Anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think we had any choice. We have always been fortunate that we have had the same goals.

When we first took over, we had a shop in Lyme Regis, which was killing us. In eight weeks of the summer, it was mad, but in the winter we were paying people to do nothing. So one of the first things we did was to get rid of it.

Best piece of advice to anyone setting up their own business?

Don’t do it! You need to really ask yourself if you want to do it. You have got to put the time in. It’s hard work.

In an ideal world, what will your business be doing in five years time?

Exactly what we are doing now, but we wouldn’t be working quite so hard, or doing as many hours. We are very lucky that we have an amazing team here at the bakery and not forgetting all of our shop staff. We have put a lot of time and effort into getting things right and now we are reaping the benefits.

Evershot Village Bakery have shops in Evershot, Chard and Beaminster.

Find out more on their website: www.evershotbakery.com

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