York Supplies is becoming a co-op – and you can own a piece of it

York Supplies is one of the worst-kept best secrets of Kings Heath – an old-school hardware and gardening store where you can find anything you need, and if that’s one nail then you can just buy one nail. We’re big fans and were quite distraught when it was announced that Jon Jaffa, the owner and heart and soul of the business, was retiring and selling up.

Over the last year a group of customers, with support from Co-ops UK, put together a plan to save the business and, more importantly, maintain the community spirit of the business that Jon has nurtured over the decades. Here’s Barbara Nice to explain it.

If successful, the business will be reborn as a York Supplies Community Co-op. Anyone who invests at least £100 can become a member with voting rights, meaning the business will effectively be owned by the customers in the community. They need to raise £300,000 from shares which will then be matched by the Community Ownership Fund, giving Jon a fair price to retire on.

The share offer ends on 7 September. You can invest (and note this is an investment, not a donation) by filling in this form.

Applications open for flats in our new building (which needs a name)

In need of affordable housing in Stirchley? Like the idea of living in a co-op run apartment block above a bakery, bike shop and art cafe? Applications are now open for flats in our building, which is currently taking shape on Stirchley high street.

Stirchley Co-op Development banner

Speaking of which, we’ve long realised we need to give our building a name. ‘The Stirchley Co-operative Development Building’ is too much of a mouthful and will get confusing when we start work on the next one (yes, there are already plans for another one).

But where to begin? How does one name a building? Not for the first time in this project we’re in uncharted territory and could do with a nudge.

If you have an idea for what our building could he called, please enter it in this very short form. There’s no prize and a very high chance we won’t use it, but there’s also a chance it’ll set us off in the right direction.

Kids Snack Packs

During the summer holidays we’ll be giving away packs of snacks for children who are missing free school meals.

Packs are available at the Loaf counter from 12 noon Tuesday to Friday on the following dates.

closedWed 26 JulyThu 27 JulyFri 28 July
Tue 1 AugWed 2 AugThu 3 AugFri 4 Aug
Tue 8 AugWed 9 AugThu 10 AugFri 11 Aug
closedclosedclosedFri 25 Aug
Tue 28 AugWed 29 AugThu 30 AugFri 1 Sep

Packs will contain the following:

  • Two snack bars
  • An apple
  • Carton of fruit juice
  • Crisps

Parents / guardians do not need to pre-order. We will have 20 packs available each day.

We do not have any funding to support this (though we are looking into it for next year). If you are able and would like to donate some money to cover the cost of the food you can do so online here or at the counter. Thank you.

Children going hungry in a developed country is a choice made by our society. If you think we should make a better choice, please let your MP know.

You raised £650 for SIFA Fireside

Between January and June we were taking donations on behalf of SIFA Fireside, the homelessness charity in Digbeth. We rounded up your generosity and just transferred £650 to their account. Thank you!

Eppie, their fundraising lead, said: “Your support has been incredible especially whilst so much has been going on. This is an amazing donation we are seriously so grateful to Loaf and your customers.”

Artefact is closing (for now!)

As you’ll know, Artefact is one of the worker’s co-ops joining the Bike Foundry and Loaf in our new building, currently under construction on the corner of Hunts Road. Their lease is up on their current home and, for various reasons, they’ve decided to vacate.

This Friday is the big closing (for now!) party, starting with Artefact’s Artefacts where you can purchase a piece of Stirchley history.

Then there’s the final programme of events through to the 30th July when the doors will shut.

Artefact isn’t going away though. Over the next year there’ll be regular events popping up in venues across Stirchley while they get themselves ready for the new building. Sign up to their newsletter to stay informed.

Loaf’s tour diary

We took Loaf on the road last week, for the first time in quite a while.

Last Saturday we were at CoCoMad selling bread, pastries, cold drinks and, once the high street shop closed, anything left over in the bakery. It was great to get out and meet new people, and of course chat to some regulars in a more relaxed environment. We noticed a bit of an uptick in visitors to the shop during the week which might have come from CoCoMad, or it might just be Stirchley high street being unpredictable as usual. Who knows! But we had a good time, met lots of new people, sold more than enough to make it worth while and will definitely be back next year.

Then on Tuesday we had a bread stall at Six Weeks of Summer by the office blocks at 2 & 3 Snow Hill. That’s right – into the city centre! Our motivation was to promote the cookery school to people outside of Stirchley and it was an intriguing toe in the water. We’re keen to try this some more, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when we have capacity to bake extra, so if you have a lead on an office lobby with plenty of foot traffic that would benefit from a pile of sourdough bread for sale, do let us know.

Finally, Wednesday saw Pete representing Loaf at the Co-op National Youth Summit, appearing on a couple of panels. The world of co-operative businesses and organisations is wide and varied so it’s good to bring a worker’s co-op perspective to the proceedings. He obviously didn’t make too many faux pas as we’ve been asked to talk about our new building at the main Co-op Congress which will be held in Birmingham next June. Exciting!

Saturday focaccia is back

One of our major frustrations in the bakery over the last year has been fitting focaccia into the bake shift for Saturday morning. It either had to go in too early, in which case it wasn’t as fresh, or too late, in which case it was under done. But we think we’ve cracked it and for the last couple of Saturdays have had some lovely slabs of fugassa for sale. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to keep it up!

The caveat is, it comes out of the oven around 9am along with the fruit loaves, so it’s not for the early birds.

Birmingham LGBT is our charity for the rest of 2023

We’re delighted to announce that Loaf is fundraising for Birmingham LGBT from July through to the end of the year. This is an important cause for us, both as individuals and as a co-operative, and when looking for an organisation to support we were drawn to the work Birmingham LGBT does in counselling and mental health. This is apparently a hard area to fundraise for from the usual sources so individual donations and sponsorships are key to providing services. Here’s James, their development manager:

As Birmingham’s leading charity advocating for and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities in Birmingham and the West Midlands, we offer a range of services focused on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, including:

  • sexual health promotion services
  • older people’s services
  • a domestic violence service
  • volunteering
  • befriending and peer mentoring
  • arts and cultural programmes
  • counselling and wellbeing support

A small £12 donation provides a safe meeting space for an hour for an LGBTQ+ community group to socialise, share ideas and have fun without fear of discrimination. We have over 20 groups who meet regularly at the centre, ranging from film clubs to support groups.

Just £25 provides a one-hour session with a counsellor or a domestic violence advocate, helping LGBTQ+ people to live an authentic life free from abuse and self-doubt.

And £120 pays for a three-hour trans youth group, fostering a fun, welcoming and inclusive environment for trans young people. Our support makes it possible for them to make new friends who share their experiences, and explore their identity in a safe space. A survey of the members of the group showed 100% had made new friends as a result, almost 90% said it had boosted their confidence and almost 75% said it had helped improve their self-esteem.

You can make a donation online with your order or in store at the counter.

As well as raising money we hope to work with Birmingham LGBT to raise awareness of their work through this newsletter and our shop, so watch for more!

Work begins on the SCD building

As many of you know, Loaf is part of a consortium of co-ops in Stirchley, Stirchley Co-operative Development (SCD), that are developing the land between Hunts Road and the British Oak. We started planning in 2016 so you can imagine how ecstatic we all are to see diggers levelling the ground ready for construction.

We had our ground breaking ceremony on Friday to mark the end of planning and the start of building. It was good to see a range of politicians in attendance – local councillors, our MP and the leader of the council – all supporting the core message of our project, that people thrive when they are in control of their housing.

You can read a press release about the ground breaking here. Thanks to all our friends and supporters who also attended. It was a really positive and rewarding day.

What does this mean for Loaf, practically speaking?

The biggest change is that we’ll be working in square rooms. Loaf’s bakery is currently a corridor on two levels and it’s not ideal. Our new premises has been designed for our needs rather than our needs being compromised to fit.

The cookery school will have a dedicated space. Currently it’s shared with the pastry, sweets and lunch shifts which, limits the amount of classes we can run. In the new building all this will move to the bakery so we’ll be able to schedule classes and activities every day. We’re excited to see how we can use this to broaden our reach and make our classes more accessible to the community.

The shop will be bigger. Like the bakery it’s currently a corridor with very little room but the new shop will have plenty more space for local products and baking supplies.

With 39 flats above us we’ll be part of an active community. We’re constantly interrogating what it means to be a ‘community bakery’ and being part of the co-op running the building will add a fascinating dimension to this. The people upstairs won’t just be potential customers – they’ll be colleagues and partners working with us towards our mutual goals. Will this change how we relate to the people who buy our bread? We shall see!

Ultimately it will give us stability. We will be in control of our rents and can’t be evicted for arbitrary reasons. While we currently have a friendly landlord and are grateful for all they’ve done for us, that could change and we would have no say in the process. The minimum life of the new building is 50 years and we want Loaf to be baking bread in, and for, Stirchley for at least that long.

Construction is scheduled to take a year and we should be able to move in from next autumn.

Exciting times!

Upcoming SCD events

There are a couple of events on the horizon for Stirchley Co-operative Development, the new building which will house Loaf, Birmingham Bike Foundry, Artefact and 39 apartments. It’s taken much longer than we anticipated but the land has been purchased, the builders contracted and things are about to, finally, get real.

Next Friday afternoon, 16 July, is the ground breaking ceremony where we’ll stick the first shovel in the ground, the press take some photos, and the start of construction is officially marked. We’ve put together a list of friends and long-term supporters of Loaf to invite but have doubtless forgotten a few. If you feel you should be on that list and have an interest in an equitable future for Stirchley, please drop us a note to info@loaf.coop and we’ll send you the details.

Then on Saturday 1st July we’ll have a stall at CoCoMad – our first in a long while. As well as selling cakes and pastries, and giving baking advice and tips, we’ll be talking about the new building and will have plenty of information to hand. If you have any questions, please do pop along and ask!

Cocomad poster

Pasta course went well!

The first of our revived, revised and reinvigorated Handmade Pasta classes ran last week and was a bit of a success! At least that’s what we can surmise from the only photo to emerge from the the evening.

This is one of the classes that has sold out this summer, but don’t worry, it will return in the autumn.

Interviewed for the Asahi Shimbu

Last week we had a visit from two reporters for the Asahi Shimbu, one of Japan’s leading newspapers, who are working on a feature about co-operatives. Apparently there’s a lot of interest in Japan about the co-op model and since the UK is the birthplace of the co-operative movement they’re visiting a number of businesses across the country.

It was great to spend a couple of hours getting into the nuts and bolts of how Loaf operates and how it differs from places we’ve worked before Loaf. To have someone question the things we take for granted – such as everyone getting paid the same rate and all decisions being made democratically – is healthy and we were able to confidently make our case.

We’re not sure when the article will appear – we were one of the first co-ops they’ve visited and they want to see some larger ones, like our supplier Suma, for contrast – but we’re looking forward to seeing what they made of us!

If you’re reading this as a member of a co-op and would like to be put in touch, let us know.

Farewell Ten Four

It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye (for now) to Ten Four Bakehouse, the other Real Bread bakery in Stirchley, who closed their doors on Saturday. It was very satisfying to discover that Stirchley could support two proper bakeries and to see one undone by rising costs beyond anyone’s control is particularly tough.

Some people assume there’s rivalry and drama between Ten Four and Loaf, but this has never been the case. The independent baking community is built on friendship and mutual support, and we’ve always lent other bakers flour or yeast in the knowledge that when we’re short they’ll be there to help us.

We wish Adam, his family and all the workers the best in these uncertain times. We hope for their speedy return and look forward to the next chapter of Ten Four.

Dog parking

At the height of the pandemic, when we moved our counter to the front door, a lot of you got in the habit of collecting your baked goods while walking your dog. This was lovely as we got to meet a wide range of your canine chums.

Since we opened the shop up again we’ve been a bit concerned about the hygiene issues around dogs in a food environment, so we’re going to revert to our previous rules of no dogs in the shop.

To help with this, we’re introducing a Canine Parking Zone (CPZ). On the right-hand side of the bakery shop door, we’ll put a chunky carabiner clip on the fixed metal hoop and invite you to secure your pup there while you pick up your loaves. (Assistance dogs are, of course, always allowed).

This is a work in progress and we welcome feedback!

A new vegan cookie appears

We are slowly increasing our range of vegan sweets and cakes, and this month are pleased to announce the arrival of a new contender. Please welcome the peanut butter dark chocolate cookie!

At Loaf we believe vegan cakes shouldn’t be a lesser choice. We work hard to ensure they’re as good, if not better, than those made with dairy. Our goal is to have a vegan option on the sweets board each day so make sure you ask next time you’re in.