This month we met Rosie and Oliver Kingdon from Stones Bakery, an artisan bakery based in Falmouth.
How long have you been running Stones Bakery, and how did you get started?
Oliver: Nearly 10 years now. When we moved down to Cornwall from Hull, we were ready to set up our own bakery, so we looked around for some sites and started out with stalls at farmers’ markets and delivering direct to delis. The long term aim was always to open a shop where we could do the baking and have everything on site. We opened our shop on the High Street in Falmouth in 2009, and we’ve recently moved to a bigger shop as we were running out of space.
Was it always something you’d always planned to do?
Rosie: We met at university in Hull; I was studying English literature and Ollie was studying marine biology, so we didn’t start off doing anything related to baking, and we don’t come from baking families. We realised after a few years we weren’t really cut out for office work, but we liked the idea of doing something practical and we were keen to work for ourselves. Oliver had a job as a miller, and from there we got interested in baking. We’d both always been very interested in food and eating good food, and it was something we could do together.
Some of our customers have been with us since we had our first market stall – they can remember us getting married, our first shop, and when our first child was born, which is really nice
How do you find working as a couple – do you each take on particular roles?
Oliver: As a couple we’re on the same wavelength with most things and being able to share the stresses and successes is nice.
Rosie: For us, it’s a team approach at work and at home. It’s great working for yourself but also quite challenging. I think I’d find it a bit lonely doing it on my own, so having someone else who knows what it’s like to chat things over with is great. We’ve always had quite similar ideas about where we wanted the business to go so it works well from that perspective. We have slightly different roles – Oliver tends to do more of the early mornings with the bread and I tend to do more of the cakes and the salads, and it’s always seemed to work pretty well overall.
How have things changed since you started the business?
Oliver: Before we started the business it was just me and Rosie, so it felt more like a project. We’ve got two children now, and the kids have grown up in the bakery, so everyone knows them. It’s changed from being just a job to a lifestyle – everything’s tied into it.
Rosie: Things have changed in terms of the size of the business, but the ethos has always stayed the same: good ingredients and simple processes. Some of our customers have been with us since we had our first market stall – they can remember us getting married, our first shop, and when our first child was born, which is really nice. You get to know people and they become a part of your life.
Can you tell us about your baking process?
Oliver: We don’t like to mess around with stuff too much. The focus is on quality ingredients, and allowing plenty of time to produce a good, natural product. We bake our bread in a traditional style, using long fermentation techniques. We give all the doughs a long time to rise and prove, which helps develop the flavours and how long the bread will keep for.
What kind of clothes do you prefer to wear when you’re baking or working in the shop?
Rosie: Something practical – it’s a fairly physical job, and you’re on the move a lot and things do get fairly floury. You want to be comfortable without feeling like you’re too scruffily dressed – it’s a balance between comfort and style.
Are you influenced or inspired by anyone in particular?
Oliver: On the food side, we love St John’s in London and their bakery. Some of our suppliers, like Monmouth Coffee, have been a real inspiration. We’re always interested other businesses who work in a traditional way, but who marry that with modern techniques.
Rosie: Whenever we go anywhere, we always seek out new bakeries, cafes and restaurants, and we look for inspiration everywhere. Falmouth’s a great place for independent businesses -we’re always drawn to people who are doing their own thing and have a clear focus about what they’re trying to achieve, like Marisa, who does our flowers and Michel who makes our cups.
What drew you to Falmouth, and what’s the best thing about living and working here?
Rosie: Falmouth has students and holiday makers as well as people who live here all year round, so it’s quite a vibrant place. There’s got a lot going on for somewhere that’s not all that big, but it also has that sense of community – you can walk down the street and see a lot of people you know. As well as having all that you’ve got the beach on your doorstep and lovely countryside nearby, so it feels like the best of all worlds.
Oliver: We love living in Falmouth. We were drawn here because it’s a really independent town; there are lots of businesses doing their own thing, and that creates a nice atmosphere. There’s a lot of support for new businesses, especially here on the High Street, and we’ve always felt that people have been generous with their time and encouragement.
The focus is on quality ingredients, and allowing plenty of time to produce a good, natural product.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Oliver: For me it’s the sense of satisfaction you get from creating a product and selling it to people directly. We have a short turnaround – we bake in the morning and often sell within an hour, so you get almost instant feedback.
Rosie: We’ve recently started doing more salads for the café and I enjoy looking at what’s in season and what’s good at the moment and thinking about how we can use it. I also love the contact with customers. We get to see people enjoying our bread and cakes, and it’s always lovely to hear positive feedback.
How do you balance a busy, successful business with family life?
Oliver: Our family is integrated into the business – our kids are always at the bakery, and to be able to show the children where we work and how we work is important. As we live and work in Falmouth there’s no commute and we can be down at the beach 15 minutes after we finish work.
Where’s your favourite place in Cornwall to spend time as a family?
Rosie: At the beach! We’re really lucky as there are so many beaches to choose from in Cornwall. Swanpool is only a five minute walk from our house, so we often head over there as the kids like to climb on the rocks. If there’s surf we usually go somewhere like Gwithian or Godrevy on the North Coast. We love packing up some food and having dinner at the beach. That’s probably the best time of all, just cooking outdoors, swimming and hanging out together.
Oliver wears Unisex Linen Shirt (available from February), Rosie wears our classic Sailor Shirt.