Saturday, 19 December 2015

Counting on Counter Service

So we bought a building... a shop that has been trading for 82 years selling hardware, pet food and everything in between. It was 1933 when Arthur Oliver Janes opened the doors of 595 Cowbridge Road East as a gardening shop. His sons, John and Cliff, took on the business following their fathers death and they managed it right up to 1984.

Image courtesy of Wales Online 2015
From 1984 to 2015 F Janes Sons has been in the loving and capable hands of Mohammed Saddique, or Sid as everyone locally knows him. I first met Sid when wandering into the shop on my way to Pettigrew Tea Rooms one day back in September 2014. I had coincidentally been talking to Rhian next door in Fablas Ice Cream about the area.

Sid had put up a handwritten sign in his busy shop window, announcing the sale of his shop due to his retirement. Anyone who knows Sid knows he has been struggling with his knees for the last couple of years and being in the shop every day seven days a week was taking its toll, Sid is also a workaholic!

I first fell in love with the Shop front of 595 Cowbridge Road East. The stunning green tiles, the large open doors and fantastic glass windows framing the shop and inviting you in from the busy street. I strolled in that day to be greeted by Sid who is one of the kindest, genuine business men I have ever met.

Sid has run his business and kept it relevant in a Cardiff which is unrecognisable from when he took the keys in the mid eighties. A World of Pets At Home, Supermarkets, DIY superstores and of course the Internet for online shopping. I have met so many shop owners who have talked of this 'Death by a Thousand Cuts', from the way shopping habits have changed. Sid offered something pretty amazing that I agreed to continue when we shook hands on the sale of 595. Sid kept his business relevant by providing a friendly, professional, personal counter service that went above and beyond for his customers. Sid delivered to the door where others wouldn't bother to offer, he knew his customers by name and could always find a solution to their problems, often finding it hidden deep somewhere in the shop.

A very apt sign in Sids shop read "we stock much more than meets the eye, please ask we aim to please"

Sid has now taken his well deserved retirement, although you can find him still servicing several local clients and he will be a regular face in Victoria Park for many years to come. It has been a pleasure getting to know Sid, his lovely wife Farukh and their family.

The traditional shop keeper and service

A traditional Bakery shop serving a traditional style of counter service is our goal. Sid's success was on having what people wanted, and giving it to them in a unique way that made people want to visit. Our bakery will give back counter service and wholesale delivery to our customers looking for both traditional and innovative baked goods.

Image courtesy of Wales Online 2015
We have learnt a great deal from Pettigrew Tea Rooms, our home inside the West Lodge has meant that our working areas have always been fully on display. Everything we do at the tea rooms is on show and we have turned this into a strength, you may have enjoyed all those cake baking smells! That is why our new bakery will be wide open. When you come through our doors you will be able to see our professional bakers at work right there behind our counters baking your daily bread. Our head baker was so excited with the idea of having the bakery open, he is looking forward to getting to know you and talking about his passion for all things bread.

Whether you are dropping in for your morning coffee, freshly baked breads, patisserie, cakes, sandwiches or hand-picked deli items, there will always be someone on hand for a chat over the counter.

In addition to counter service Pettigrew Bakeries is about the wholesale supply of bread and bakery produce to the incredible hard working independents of South Wales and beyond. We have already been meeting independent business' to discuss what they want in a product that reflects their quality, consistency and expertly crafted produce. Hopefully it won't be too long before you spot a Pettigrew Bakery loaf on the menu of any one of the incredible restaurants, hotels, cafes, tea rooms, pop-ups, street food superstars, deli's and shops in the City.

We can't wait to get started!

The handshake handover Summer 2015
Thanks for the warm welcome to Victoria Park

We now have a Facebook Page full of pictures of the building works as we breathe new life into this stunning community shop, which we would love if you LIKED just click HERE

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Pettigrews

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Pushing Change Pushing Doors - Pettigrew Bakeries

"Work on the business not in the business"

Pettigrew Bakeries is the name of our new bakery which is going to open in 595 Cowbridge Road East, Victoria Park, Cardiff this coming spring 2016.

The brief is straightforward, we are expert bakers, we love all things baked, we make as much as we can ourselves from awesome local producers in our (very) little home in Pettigrew Tea Rooms, Bute Park. We use a serious amount of bread and have always wanted to bake our own but never had the space.

We are equally passionate about World class produce made right here in South Wales, served for the community in Cardiff and further afield. West Cardiff has a wonderfully vibrant community who support real local producers. We cannot wait to play our part in that local place, serving our style of traditional British baking on our doorstep, Ely, Canton, Llandaff, Fairwater, Victoria Park & beyond!

The builders move in tomorrow to start work in the regeneration, restoration and general transformation of this beautiful traditional Victorian shop.

I am going to document exactly what we are planning and how it will work out over the coming weeks, but first off here is some background about how we got where we are today. Sunday 29th November 2015.


A year ago my major concern was what would happen to the operation of Pettigrew Tea Rooms if I wasn't there, knowing that some major personal changes were looming meaning I wouldn't be able to continue managing my business and serving customers.

If you open your own business, success can hinge on how you embrace change. I cannot stress this enough. The tea rooms have demanded change that I could never have envisioned or predicted. To do the business justice we chose to embrace and adapt, often making painful changes along the way. This has been tough on everyone at the Tea Rooms, we keep our staff and they experience the difficulty and uncertainty change brings. There is one big benefit of continual change for improvement; when change comes, as one team, we are ready to embrace it with both hands.

A year ago my Supervisors became Managers taking the position as head of our family leading Pettigrew Tea Rooms. Our 4th year of operation has been the busiest by far, welcoming more people than ever, adding more complexities to our menu, cooked breakfasts, better ingredients, new local suppliers, more team members, challenges and triumphs.

Our Breakfasts have been a huge challenge to make a reality but a huge success, thanks to everyone who helped. Have a read about them here
Image Credit Gourmet Gorro @GourmetGorro
Image Credit Gourmet Gorro @GourmetGorro
Nothing is perfect and there are many challenges ahead of us, but we have kept what we have always had, a passionate collective of skilled people who care about where they work and responding to make it better.

Gareth Davies Sugarcraft Artist November 2015

Standing still is not an option!

From the moment I knew that the Tea Rooms were a success there was a palpable expectation of "what's next?". So alongside the changes in my life and the establishment of the Tea Rooms I have been on a search.

How do you decide what to do next? There have been no less than 5 serious expansion opportunities in the past 4 years that have peaked my interest. Tea Rooms, Cake Business', Wholesale. I have a rule that if a door appears you need to give it a little push just to see where it leads you. From this plethora of possible expansion possibilities and having sat here writing (and deleting) for hours this morning, our final decision really comes down to this...

 I LOVE BAKERIES. The tea rooms exist, because I LOVE TEA ROOMS.

I adore bread, I love the magic of making it, the science, the alchemy, the variety, the technique, the spectrum of complexity to simplicity.

There is burgeoning talent in Pettigrew Tea Rooms and now I have the opportunity to give that talent a showcase.

Wholesale bread supply in Cardiff is under competitive. There is an opportunity for quality bakeries in South Wales who can supply quality and consistency not just to a local community but to the explosion of wonderful independent business' craving quality and consistent locally baked craft products. (Note I am NOT saying there are none, but there are certainly NOT enough!)

It is an honour and an adventure to become a supplier, I hope for Pettigrew Bakeries to join the ranks of incredible Welsh suppliers bringing craft, expertise and talent to our local market here in South Wales.

We have an opportunity ahead, it is a risk, a change beyond any we have embraced before. This is one door that pushed all the way open and this time we have leapt across the threshold, screaming I WANT TO BAKE FREE!

In the coming days the builders will move in to 595 Cowbridge Road East, Victoria Park and I will keep you updated on the progress of the works as we go. Breaking news is always delivered first on Twitter @PettigrewBakes

Peace x


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Family Business - What gives you the right?

The first time I described Pettigrew Tea Rooms as a 'family run business' in early 2012 I felt bad.

I questioned my right to that claim for our business. 

A family run business evokes a sense of local-ness, integrity, control, care about the customer, belonging, community, honesty and many more things. I have always believed these things are true for Pettigrews and help to make this place special, but saying those words felt odd.

Why the unease?

It is an honour to be an employer where your employees become family. Today I can hold my head up, look you in the eyes and talk about the Pettigrew team as a family outside the ties of blood. Way back in 2012 we started more like pals muddling through. The family we have now was not expected, hoped for yes but never presumed. The discomfort I felt reflects how I felt at the time about myself, my now husband and the fear of putting our name to something untested.

A family business can be a great gift, it is not for every family. Lee and I lived together worked together with scarce few hours of the week where we were not in each others company. The stresses, tears, paranoia, fear, arguments, love, joy, success and contentment all shared. Pettigrew has evolved and we always treated it as more than just us, asking what does Pettigrew deserve? It always deserves more than we can give, all we can do is our best. Part of that is knowing when our best isn't good enough but if we keep trying we can improve.

Living those years together forged us in a way I cannot say I would recommend or want to relive, it didn't make our relationship, I believe that our relationship survived what was genuinely a gruelling test. The unanticipated gift of this experience was the knowledge that our relationship can survive and strengthen through experiences that most people will not endure. That was a revelation and is certainly part of why I write this as a married man.

Lee and I could be found at Pettigrew Tea Rooms nearly every day for the first 3 years and that is part of what established this ethos of a family business. We put in more of oursleves than we should have at times, but it was always in the pursuit of what Pettigrew deserved.

I have had cause this past week to look back at what makes a family business a family business and before we go further I realise that I need to thank my family. My mum and mum2 still remind me of the mornings they happily wiled away washing dishes in our suitably inadequate makeshift potwash of the early days.

It is incredible to think how things have changed from those early days, but the all hands on deck support we had was incredible. I was so caught up in the next three years that I don't think I ever stopped to say thank you properly. Thanks mums! you guys saved our bacon! x

The first cup of tea made in the tea rooms was by my sister! and my other sister scrubbed labels from pans with my dear friends too! Helen, Nan, Gran, Jo, Steve, Di, Karl, Kath, Manon; the list goes on and I could spend this post just thanking people who helped me and Lee in those days.

To look forward sometimes you need to look at where have you come from and what you have learned.

What has put me in mind of family and specifically this new chapter of the Pettigrew family happened three weeks ago when my Dad died.

You may or may not know that the specific catalyst to me quitting my job in 2010 was the diagnosis of my Step Father, Don, who suffered from cancer in his brain and passed away in January 2011. I was inspired not to let life happen and chose instead to turn the fear that this would become my life's great regret, into the fuel for I Want to Bake Free and Pettigrew Tea Rooms. Bringing us tidily to Sunday 25th July 2010 when I sat down and wrote my first blog post which you can read here.

My Dad, Robert James Le Masurier, was diagnosed with mesothelioma over two years ago, which is a type of cancer from working with asbestos when he was young. He passed away in July this year, just a few short weeks ago.

This is not a blog post about cancer, sadly you probably have your own story to tell about that disease, but it is about family and inspiration. My Dad was brilliant. He was the middle son of Stella and Jack Le Masurier, my Grandad Jack being the entrepreneur who started Fitzroy Joinery Ltd which he then handed on to my Dad to run as our family business.

As boys, me and my brothers grew up as the sons of the boss that ran a company in Plymouth known for quality, precision and skilled joinery professionals. Dad worked almost his entire adult life making Fitzroy Joinery Ltd prosper, through the recessions and the good times. Talk about an inspiration. Mum and Dad never once pressured me or my brothers to think of taking on the family business and as each of us left home, we never did.

When I came to Dad with my plans in spring 2010 we analysed and discussed them in great detail, it was like a pitch to Dragons Den, but with Dads unique calm inquisitive and precise business mind. With the love, support and encouragement of both my Dad, my Step Mother and all my family, I made the leap and quit my job. Pettigrew Tea Rooms opened on the 29th March 2012, over 20 months later.

Being a hands on guy working in the building trade for his entire life, Dad advised me through our fit out. He sat in on the meetings with the contractors at West Lodge and helped me to install our kitchens and pot wash. Famed for his saying 'Measure Twice, Cut Once!' that is a favourite saying to this day at the tea rooms and one we will always try to live by.

Dad has done so much for me and he always said it was his privilege to be there for us boys and help us grow. Pettigrew was born from my family and now is its own family, beyond our team it may well include you.

In the last conversation alone with my Dad on Thursday 9th July 2015, he didn't have much energy to speak, but was hanging on every word as we discussed the pros and cons of the purchase of the shop in Victoria Park for Pettigrew Bakeries and the possibility of another tea room elsewhere. Sat up watching England winning the first leg of the Ashes in Cardiff, I was chatting away about all of the things that could go wrong, all the difficulties and the possibilities. Unable to waste much energy with words he simply said
"...ah, but you won't let those things happen, you will do it right" all with his smile.

I am so proud to have known this man and benefited from his love and guidance. We both knew in that moment, that this time I wouldn't be able to ask him for his help again, but he left me with the knowledge that he trusted I would do it right. There is not a gift a Dad can give to his Son more than that, at 33 i'd rather have my Dad here, but knowing he trusted me was his last precious gift. We made a video for Dad which me and my brothers shared at his funeral. He did so much for us and for me and Pettigrews. As we embark on this new adventure of inventing Pettigrew Bakeries I had to look back at where we came from, what is important, what does it mean to be a family, to have a family business.

I will try and do it right Dad, thank you for our family, I promise that our future family will honour you in all we do at Pettigrews

Yesterday I exchanged contracts on a beautiful shop building in Victoria Park overlooking the entrance to Victoria Park itself, laid out of course by W W Pettigrew. Pettigrew Bakeries will honour the family that gave us Cardiff's stunning parks by growing our family. I hope you will come along for the ride!

As always I will try and share the best information here on the blog and through @want2bakefree

I Want to Bake Free on


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