2013, bakery, Chichester, stonepillow, suspended coffee

Suspended Coffee Whipped & Baked’s Way


I suppose seeing that I haven’t posted for a long time, I really ought to update you on how the Whipped & Baked bakery is doing. To those new to this blog, sometime around four months ago, I, together with my husband a.k.a. Slaveboy refitted a shop and opened a bakery/coffee shop on little more than £5000. We didn’t want the constraints of a bank loan or the gamble of investing large sums of money into it so decided to be inventive. Seeing that I don’t plan to be posting about it just this very minute, you are very welcome to have a peek at the bakery here. While you’re there, consider liking the page, it’s our only form of advertising, apart from Twitter.

But let’s talk about marbles.

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These marbles do a lot in the bakery. It initiates interest and intrigue, mostly spurred on by young children who probably have never seen traditional glass marbles that up close (they’re Slaveboy’s from when he was a little boy and the jar was from when the bakery was a family run sweet shop just after World War 2). They visualise random acts of kindness from our customers who pay a £1 to see two marbles put into the jar. They each represent a cup of coffee for the homeless of Chichester.

Just around a week before we were to open the bakery, a friend forwarded on Facebook a link on a scheme called suspended coffee. The gist of it is easily conveyed. It started in Naples, gained momentum in the States and Whipped & Baked was the first establishment in West Sussex, England to have adopted and adapted the scheme. Where it originated in Naples, customers who came in to a coffee shop would pay for an extra coffee which is then suspended for any homeless individual who might wander into the coffee shop in need of a hot beverage. Milk bottle caps used to represent the suspended coffee drinks and as long as there were milk bottle caps visible in a container on the counter, any homeless individual was able to come in and request for a coffee.

We contacted the local homeless charity, StonePillow about our plan to start the scheme and since then, we have received their endorsement. We avoided the complications of over-thinking the scenario – some people suggested that coffee wasn’t a great thing to be feeding homeless people who are potentially sub-optimally nourished, some people suggested that we might not want the likes of homeless people entering our establishment and deterring paying customers, some people suggested that if we wanted to give away free coffees, why not just do it, rather than make a show and tell of it.
We were quick to brush off all these as moot points. They might be sub-optimally nourished but let’s not go all First Class Woes on this and ponder upon whether they should be fed lentil soup instead – if you were homeless and potentially penniless and hungry, a coffee is far better than nothing.
And deterring paying customers by having homeless people come in getting their cup of paid for coffee (it’s not free when it’s been paid by someone)? Meh. We don’t want paying customers like that. That decision making didn’t require a rocket science degree.
And I will make a show and tell of it. I’ve met plenty of Chichester residents who would declare that this great city does not have a problem with homelessness. They were not so quick to retort when informed that the StonePillow day centre can sometimes see up to 50 homeless individuals come through their door in a day. We are comfortable with the concept of being charitable when it doesn’t really involve us engaging directly with the recipient of our charity. A bit like donating £5 a month to sponsor a chimpanzee or £7 to go towards installing a clean water standpipe for some village in Africa. It’s a clean, sterile and detached charitable act. The act is more about your feelgood factor than it actually is about the recipient of the donation. And this is where the suspended coffee scheme is different. It’s not fundraising, money is not being collected for the sake of collecting money which then gets pushed through channels where stakeholders and administrations decide where the money should go to, once the costs of admin, stationery, advertising etc have been recouped. Instead, this scheme is direct action. On a daily basis, in our bakery, marbles go into the jar donated by our customers and they come out of the jar as suspended coffees are claimed by homeless individuals.
The lads (I say lads because in general, they tend to be men although there are a few women regulars too) come in pretty much every day, between 7-15 of them and most of them are fond of coffee, and also hot chocolate. Almost all of them have sugar and more likely than not, it would be in excess of four teaspoons worth per drink. They’ve become quite chatty, they know us on first name basis and I know a few by name too. We talk about how the coffee machine works, organic food, cinder toffee making, tattoos and 99% of the time our paying customers don’t even know that they’re homeless. In fact, we have had people pass comments that we didn’t seem to be getting any uptake with the suspended coffee only to be very surprised when we pointed out to them that the last group of people who left the shop were all homeless.
The old fashioned assumption that this marginalised section of the society would be unruly/dirty/unkempt/different is still rife. Occasionally, a couple of the lads would turn up looking a bit worse for wear, but so would you if you were sleeping rough on damp ground during an unanticipated nighttime downpour.
The biggest wake up call for me, which felt like a slap in the face with a wet sock, and even more shocking because I thought I was being ever so sensitive and conscientious by doing this, was when one of the lads knocked on our door after we’re closed asking if their friend can still get a cup of coffee. Not because he was thirsty but because he was on medication and there was simply no water to be found anywhere in the town centre. The toilets were closed, and even if they were open, the water was not fit for drinking. There’s no standpipe for water accessible. The ironic thing is, we have shops on the High Street putting out bowls of water for thirsty dogs.
This scheme of ours have generated a lot of interest and I’m really pleased about this. I’ve been invited by the local radio station to talk about it, the local newspaper have written a feature about it and even a columnist have commended us for starting this scheme.
However, there is room for improvement. Other businesses could come on board, and adapt the scheme to make it work within their own business models. If you’re a sandwich shop, then the suspended coffee could be a basic sandwich. If you’re a fruitmonger, it could be a banana. The list is endless.
When I decided that we were doing this scheme, Slaveboy’s was sceptical but he went with it. Now, he is the biggest advocate. He educates the customers and their children who enquire about the marbles. He engages in a discussion about it with those who find it intellectually intriguing. He rationalises with the sceptics who are looking for the catch or how we are financially profiting from this which obviously we aren’t.
This scheme is not about coffee or charity. It’s about random acts of kindness. It’s about doing something which you know will directly benefit another person. There’s no free pens, or cute photos of fluffy animals or snapshots of dusky skinned little girls with dirt stained faces and oversized tee shirts but that cup of suspended coffee could make the difference between a homeless person making it through a cold winter night outdoors, not just for the warmth it gives, but the hope it represents.

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2013, bakery, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

As the dust settles


Well, SniffSnorters, all I seem to be doing at the moment is bake brownies. We are selling dozens of the stuff. I had this self indulgent idea that I would be rolling out a magnificent array of baked decadence that would showcase my skills but the reality is, Chichester just loves brownies. Especially cheesecake brownies.
Within a week of opening, we has people come in requesting the cheesecake brownies, even when there went any on display.
There are lots of things we have yet to catch up with. We still don’t have a till. Or an A board. Or a sign above the bakery. Apparently these would encourage business but seeing that we sold out of cakes by 2:30pm last Saturday, I’m not sure we are ready to deal with even more customers just yet.
There has been a lot of goodwill and enthusiasm from the general public. They seem to get our ‘local’ ethos and appreciate our quirky approach to running a business.
Today has been the first day we’ve had to juggle childcare for the youngest 3. Normally, when I wake up to go to the bakery, the little ones are still asleep and today I managed to fit in some baking until 10:15, which was when I needed to get back to take over the childcare from an older child.
The baking is intense, I’m still feeling my way around it and I’m yet to settle in a conclusive baking schedule.
If you’re interested in keeping more current with what I’m to, I have a Facebook page for Whipped & Baked here.
And you know what bugs me the most? Above the crazy amount of baking and the lack of sleep?
I had a vision that I would be über glamourous and wear my favourite PVC pencil skirt as my baking uniform but the reality is, most mornings, if I could roll into work in my pyjamas, I would.

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2013, bakery, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

2 weeks and a bit


This post is fuelled by the mantra something is better than nothing.

It’s been just over two weeks since the bakery first opened its door and we’ve been running to stand still. Despite all our convictions that things would start flow and build up to a steady momentum, we have found ourselves rushed off our feet and really testing the limits of our raw drive to want to make this work.

I’m not going to go into to much details tonight and I promise a more lengthy post during the weekend (hopefully) where I might talk about just how most of my baking time has been monopolised by making my cheesecake brownies which seem to be flying out of the bakery when just barely cool enough to cut.

There are a few things I’ve learnt.

Dishes. Bins. Floors. These things don’t get cleaned by themselves. You would have thought by now I’d got to grips with this notion.

I need an A board. I know this. You know this. My customers ALL know this and by golly, half of them have made sure that they know that I know this.

Over-frothed milk really does smell like dried egg whites. Not nice.

Open plan kitchens are great until you mistake the bicarbonate of soda for baking powder. Then your kitchen looks like a failed science lab lesson run by the substitute P.E. teacher. EVERYONE can see the mistakes you make.

On that note, I’ll share the second attempt of the failed baking endeavour above. It was all ok in the end.

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Word of mouth is spreading about Whipped & Baked bakery and I have so much to share with you. I have ideas, musings and some if I could redo some bits moments to share with you but that will be coming at a later date.

Until then, do keep in touch via my Facebook page.

Sleep well.

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2013, bakery, cake, challenge, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

28.02.13


We opened yesterday.

And I’m still alive.

The eve of the opening, we took delivery of a radiogram, a bass cabinet, several valves and other things. These items were in the front of the bakery some 10 hours before we were due to open.

But we overcame in. We were busy. Lots of lovely friends and family cake to visit and I’m sure I has this insipid grin on my face for most part of the day.

Will write in more details but here are some pictures.

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bakery, Chichester, tattoo, Whipped&Baked

Plus Seventeen Days (and we are almost there!)


Dinner update: Tonight’s dinner was a culinary delight. We had chicken kiev (not home made) with rice, and pretend peas as Izzy The Rockstar forgot to buy some when he went to do the shopping. I fear rickets might set in and I just simply will not be knowledgable enough to identify it.

The bakery is almost done. I’m not sure what lessons I have learnt from this experience but one thing I am sure, more money would have soothed the process beautifully. However, I could be philosophical and think that perhaps I would appreciate it more because we did most of the work ourselves and took the time to get the finer details to how we want them to be but flipping heck, it’s been really hard work and there is still more to come before we can open the doors officially.

I’m currently sitting in a pub, enjoying a glass of Coke and a packet of over salted crisps. I have my painting jeans on and I still have gloss paint in my hair. I’ve managed to get the personal wifi password from the bartender and I’m surrounded by younglings discussing £100 tracksuits. Slaveboy is sound engineering for the night’s Open Mic Night.

All this to distract myself from trying to figure out how to get the 7th Wonder (aged almost 3) to take her Ramones tee shirt off so I can wash it. It’s been many many many days.

Here goes some photos.

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The children, plus Firstborn’s boyfriend carried the chest of drawers from our house, which is about 100 paces from the bakery. I wanted to do away from the pre-fabricated shop counter look and Slaveboy did well in acquiring furniture which he then upcycled into counters.

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Here’s the Small Shouty One showing off the custom made knickers cushions that my friend, Lindy of Busy Fingers made. I think they look fab. 🙂

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Excuse the yellow sponge on the floor. Firstborn was cleaning the floor with it and at the same time doing her ballet exercises. I’d only noticed it when I was editing the image.

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We also started giving the big window a clean. I’m pleased to share that my legendary wax on wax off window cleaning moves were much appreciated by the passers-by.

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I found a great use for all the business cards I collected from tattoo artists over the years. I’ve always wanted the bakery to draw its inspiration from the tattoo world but I was keen to showcase how much tattoo art has developed and evolved into a viable artform in its own right. To do away from the pre-conceived idea that tattoo art is substandard, crude and lacking depth.

I’ve finally arrived to a decision as to when I plan to open. I’ll share it with you all soon. Once the gloss paint dries. Until then, have a good night. I’m back to eavesdropping on a conversation between a group of early 20s who are declaring vehemently that Imagine was originally an Elton John’s song.

I despair.

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2013, bakery, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

Plus Two Weeks


To say I’m not exhausted would be a lie. I’ve been passing out on the sofa midday (if left alone for five minutes, been tetchy and then failing to properly sleep for another couple of hours after I’ve put myself to bed.

Most of the work at the bakery is almost done. I only have some freshly grouted tiles to clean in the kitchen and after that, it will be the mammoth undertaking of cleaning EVERYTHING. I’ve done this several times, and so have others. It lasts until one of us decides that we need to haul out something from the garage or from the cellar. Then the cleaning has to start all over again.

I won’t lie and say it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s been bloody hard work and the weird thing is, I’m more weary than I am tired. The project, being so tightly budgeted, leaves very little room for error and at times, the first decision can’t be anything but the only decision, like it or not. So, we are having to really exercise our creative thinking and visualising and take huge leaps of faith with a lot of the decisions we have made.

But. And this the saving grace Mother of a big but, we have been extremely lucky. The Grade 2 listed building that is the bakery has not thrown us any troubles. Everything we have tried to do the building has appeared to welcome it. I know I know. It sounds hippie drippy.

We have one more day of Percy The Pirate tidying up the last bits of work needed doing and the building will be wholly ours to sort out. Much as I love Percy, it’s a bit like having a live-in maid when I was living with my Mother in Malaysia – you could never quite feel at home.

During the time spent sanding down doors and glossing skirting boards, I’ve been mentally listing what I would do differently if I had to do it all over again. Besides having triple the amount of budget of course. One of these days, when the dust settles (quite literally), I think I might write a post on that.

Until then, I’m pleased to announce that the vonSponge family is still going strong despite living on a diet of fluffy pancakes and maple syrup. We have an extremely tired Potato Bottom who’s still transitioning into life at the Performing Arts Schools. Mondays are a real killer for her – she’s there for 11 hours, the majority of those hours actually dancing. Lalla is caught up with regional level diving competition training and her Level 3 interview tomorrow for her Further Education course. Izzy The Rockstar is snowed under with essay writing, interview preparation for his Higher National Diploma course, his upcoming gig (plus his debut rehearsal with Slaveboy’s band) and slight panic about filling in University funding forms. Firstborn is reconsidering her decision about university and doggedly working at her photography. All this in the last one week while Zak Cool (aged 10) is now more often than not the oldest sibling around during the day time, the 7th Wonder leaving a trail of toy destruction around the house and her very own personal assault course designed to surprise us whenever we go down the stairs.

And The Small Shouty One is in love.

And his name is Adam.

And apparently he’s coming over Saturday for drinks and cake.

I don’t think his mother is aware of this but I doubt I’ll be finding an unchaperoned 6 year old at my doorstep very soon.

Here are some photos. In no discerning order.

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2013, bakery, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

Plus Two Days


In a nutshell: After several years of deliberating about it, I’m finally taking the plunge and opening a bakery in Chichester. The dream is to have a bakery which sells decadent cakes made al ingredients, sourced as locally as possible. The perfect time finally came along when a shop premises that has been in our family for over three generations finally became available again. These posts will chronicle our process of getting the shop reading for opening, hopefully in less than forty days.

Quick one, SniffSnorters. I’m sneaking in a post. The household is livelier than usual this morning as Potato Bottom is having two trial days doing full time at a Performing Arts school. We spent last night roasting whole chickens when we discovered we had nothing put in her packed lunch.

Today, will be a busy day. Percy The Pirate will be buffing the tiles and installing the surface for the coffee machine and sinks. He’ll be sorting out the plumbing and measuring up for the serving counters. The coffee machine is arriving and I’m meeting with the tea supplier. Even the elusive oven delivery might make an appearance by the end of tomorrow.

I had an almost glorious day yesterday. I managed to sneak out into town, if only to go to the bank to open a business bank account (a bit of bolting the door after the horse has flee or however the saying goes, I’m not English so English sayings come hard to me. I’ve also been sorting out an Orange PocketLandline account, a service which provides your business with a landline number with comparative call cost without you having to have a physical phone line connection.

As far as tiredness levels go, I’d say it’s about 11 on a scale of 10. I’ve stopped having coherent conversations with Slaveboy around five days ago and this is a perfect reason why complex plans like opening a bakery should not be drawn out on the back of an envelope because two months later, when tiredness hits you, the chances of you deciphering your etchings will be near on impossible.

Here are a couple of photos. One of Percy just as he finished the tiling (he hated it!) and another of an old 1933 Ordnance map of Chichester we found while clearing the bakery. I think we will be fra
Onwards and upwards, people. See you tomorrow 🙂

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