(this article comes from my blog post of April, 2012)
It's been five months since we've set up our bakery in the kitchen of Wesley Mission here in Newcastle West, and about six weeks since we opened our cafe doors once again.
It's Easter Monday today. It's been a crazy few weeks. I'm resting while the crew are keeping the easter punters fed and caffeined. It will be a busy day, with all our regulars finally having found us again after a few months in the wilderness without their favourite bakery.
The cafe is pretty much set up now, after spending the past five months slowly renovating, fitting out and decorating the space. Everybody seems pretty happy with the outcome - it's quite a bit bigger than our old digs on Hunter street, and we've had the luxury of space for the first time in years. We've created a lounge area and a front cafe kitchen, with large tables and lots of books on the walls - a biproduct of our fledgeling relationship as a social enterprise with Wesley Mission, our landlord and enterprise partner here in the wilds of the West End.
There has been a steady stream of great press about us since we've opened, with numerous blog posts, online magazine articles, and lately a couple of feature articles in the Newcastle Herald. The bread has been coming out very fine indeed, with Wal the oven almost achieving match fitness at last, after lots and lots of tweaking. Craig Miller, our erstwhile woodfired oven genius, has been sending me detailed designs of Bertha 2, and I'm currently raising some capital to have her built. She will fit nicely out the back under the awning, and will triple our baking capacity instantly. She should also give the bread a thinner, more colourful crust, due to her massive 'turbocharged' firebox (something Craig and I have been working on for over a year now).
My offsider and baking buddy Ridley are counting the weeks till she appears with excitement, though it seems that she is taking longer to materialise than we would have thought. A bit frustrating, but these things always take longer than we wish, in my experience. Nonetheless, Bertha 2 will be more than a prototype, as her predecessor Bertha 1 was. And Wal, bless his old heart, will get to return to light duties once again.
Meanwhile, there is lots to do here in building and energising our community cafe. The blessing of working with Wesley Mission is that we have less pressure as a commercial imperative now - our brief is to set this enterprise up along the lines of a sustainable community and social enterprise - so while 'bums on seats' is the first priority, our big picture priorities can actually be allowed to progress at the same time.
We have an awesome laneway here, which was once a parking lot for staff cars. We are working with a number of community groups to energise the space, so there will be outdoor seating, surrounded with edible gardens for the cafe, street art on the walls, and energy efficiency design additions, making shade and better use of available light. The great thing is there are people who have a passion already working on the project, and they will hopefully make a valuable addition to the whole through their efforts.
That's the nature of what we are trying to do here - and while we began it in Hunter street, it couldn't be achieved without a supportive partner with strong ties with the community to help it along. Wesley Mission has these ties, and they are very keen to see this project become a feature of the Newcastle landscape.
Every day is filled with possibility for everyone associated with SourdoughBaker Cafe, and that's exactly the way it should be.
For the next part of this story thread, have a look at: