The Managing Director of Reeve The Bakers says that Shaftesbury remains an important store location for his family-run business. Gary Reeve was in the town on Thursday morning for the reopening of his refurbished High Street shop.
“We enjoy being in Shaftesbury. We feel that the trade here is very strong. There is good footfall,” said Gary, adding, “We seem to have a very loyal customer base and we’re very pleased with it.”
Reeve The Bakers has operated a Shaftesbury store for almost 20 years. The High Street and the retail sector have changed greatly during that time. Recently, there’s been debate over empty retail units. The former Turnbull’s and Budgen’s stores are currently unoccupied, but Gary is positive about the situation. “Looking at towns around us, I think it is quite cyclical. We have towns that have some vacant properties, which will then regenerate. It’s disappointing that Turnbull’s has gone. It had a very nice offering.”
Whilst Gary was full of praise for Turnbull’s he said that some businesses can be ‘a little out of touch’ with what’s happening. “They blame everything that has gone wrong on footfall, or parking charges. We have not experienced any problems in Shaftesbury. We’re very pleased to be here and we hope to be here for a long time,” Gary said.
Gary’s Shaftesbury store has been trading for almost twenty years. The company operates a total of twelve shops around Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire.
On Thursday morning, Shaftesbury shoppers got their first view of the company’s remodelled High Street store. “We shut the shop late on Saturday afternoon. We had builders in for over three days, working through the night to add new floors, ceilings and walls and to decorate the shop. We’ve gone for a modern-classic look using more contemporary colours. But we’re also harking back to the heritage of the business, which adds a more traditional feel to the shop,” Gary said. “There’s very much an artisan feel to our retail baking. We’re looking at traditional breads and pastries, that’s our niche area.”
There’s a lot of interest in traditional products that had fallen out of fashion. Gary offers sourdough bread as an example. Twenty years ago, shoppers would not have been able to buy that in his shops. “It’s an old-fashioned product but the skills to make it were lost in the industry for the best part of three generations. We’ve brought it back into our business. If you go up to London, to trendy places like Borough Market, it is a popular seller now and people are really enjoying proper bread. People understand now that bread, like fine wine or cheese, needs time to be made – and made properly – using authentic ingredients,” Gary said.
Unlike some parts of the UK, Gary says there are no distinctly local bakery items on sale here. “There’s nothing that’s massively ‘Shaftesbury’. Dorset Apple cake is a popular regional item and there’s also Lardy Cake – that’s from Wiltshire,” he said.
Reeve The Baker’s bestseller in Shaftesbury is savoury. “Cheese twists do well and our sourdough breads and olive and Emmental breads also sell very well in Shaftesbury,” Gary explained.
Gary said that his redesigned store has received positive feedback. “People like the new look. Inevitably some will come and say they preferred it how it was. But I think the shop feels bigger. It’s bright, it’s fresh. We’re investing in the town and we hope the local people appreciate that.”