Bake 'Em Away: Edinburgh's Bakery Three.14
The last decade was a big one for the micro-venue, from food trucks to one-person cafes. We catch up with Ashley Heaton of the much-loved Bakery Three.14 to learn some of the ins and outs
People actually quite like other people. In a time when anything and everything you want is ready to be drone-delivered to you at a few hours' notice, it's the personal touch that can make a big difference. Food hasn't been immune to the demands and machinations of big tech – if you're reading this while out and about, please look left and right for the Deliveroo cyclist about to mow you down – but small and well-curated cafes and bars continue to provide the extra intangibles we all want.
One such cafe is Bakery Three.14, the small but well-formed one-woman bakery and cafe headed up by Ashley Heaton. It was a big vote-getter in this year's Food and Drink Survey, and a sample of your comments shows just why. "The cakes are always so original... really nice atmosphere and the woman who owns the shop is lovely"; "it’s so homely and the baker is so welcoming"; "cosy little cafe, with delicious homemade cakes and savouries (pies!)." We didn't embellish that, they really did write pies with an exclamation mark.
We caught up with Heaton over email to find out a bit more about the bakery, and the realities of setting out on your own.
How did Bakery Three.14 come about, and what was the spark that made you want to have your own place?
Being self-employed has always appealed to me. I changed careers and started working in restaurants, bakeries and cafes around eight years ago with a view to gaining hospitality experience and one day opening my own place. I lost sight of that for a while because I was just enjoying the work that I was doing.
Things started to get a bit stale and I always like to challenge myself, so one day I just kind of woke up and remembered that I wanted to have my own place and felt like I’d reached a point where I had gathered most of the necessary skills to do that. I looked into getting some funding and it seemed possible so off I went. Usually when I get an idea in my head I tend to run with it – at all costs!
What's it like having 'your own place', where you have to handle everything yourself?
It’s challenging. I especially miss having colleagues sometimes because I had such an amazing team in my last job. Taking on all the pressures of running a business can be really tough but I’m quite resilient and my parents and partner have been incredibly supportive. But I think it’s a big part of why people enjoy coming to my place. It’s always me behind the counter and every item enjoyed there has been made from scratch by me, the owner. That’s not a very common experience.
A lot of people who voted in the Survey talked about how welcoming the cafe is and how it feels like part of the community to them. Is that something you've consciously tried to build into the bakery, or has it just naturally come about that way?
I always had it in my mind that I really wanted my place to be welcoming and unpretentious. Initially I wanted to host community events and workshops and make a useful space for charity groups. The space I ended up taking on unfortunately hasn't allowed for that because it is just too small.
However, the small size has helped contribute to that idea in other ways and from the day I first opened people have commented that it feels so homely to them and like they’re just catching up with me in my kitchen. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. So I am absolutely thrilled that despite not being able to host events then at least by creating an honest, welcoming and inclusive environment the people in my community are happy with that contribution.
Obviously there are lots of little indie cafes/bars/producers etc in Edinburgh; how important is the camaraderie and support of your peers?
I have a small network of support among local businesses but it rarely extends beyond likes and encouraging words on social media. We’re all so busy running our businesses most of the time! I’m an introvert so I’m quite happy just doing my own thing tucked away in my little corner of Newington. My customers are absolutely amazing and give me so much support and encouragement.
Bakery Three.14, 38 Dalkeith Rd, Edinburgh, bakery314.com