About Time You Met: Florence Hellier, Co-Founder of Hoxton BakehouseBy Angelica Malin
Following a career in the city, Florence, along with her husband Darren decided to set up a bakery in Lymington. Following the success of their first bricks and mortar site, they recently opened a Hoxton Bakery outpost in Southampton and are already planning on opening a further two bakeries down the line. We caught up with Florence and talked all things bread, business and baking:
Tell us a bit more about Hoxton Bakehouse and how it all started?
Myself and Darren (partner and co-founder) had to move from London to Lymington. We had no jobs lined up so we got a credit card and put an oven, a single table and a small fridge on it which became Hoxton Bakehouse in February 2014.
The first year was incredibly tough. We actually picked up our first oven ourselves – which fell off the back of the forklift, and in that very second, it made me realise in business you have only yourself to turn to.
With only a handful of customers, money was incredibly tight and some nights we couldn’t even afford the petrol home so would sleep in the back of our van!
The reputation for your bread proceeds you; supplying some of the best restaurants in the country. How long was it before you got your first order?
Back in 2014, our first customers were Thyme and Tides and The Greyhound on the Test; both in Stockbridge and both of which we still supply. We are so lucky to supply Angela Hartnett’s Lime Wood, The Pig, Four Seasons, River Cottage and many other fanatic restaurants and hotels in Hampshire.
What’s the secret to your award-winning produce?
I think the best secret is keeping it simple. Don’t over complicate what your offer. Quality rather than quantity.
Another of your signature bakes is the Cinnamon Buns! How many are you making a week across Hoxton Bakehouse Southampton, Lymington and Winchester?
The cinnamon buns! We sell around 3,000 per week. They are so delicious and highly addictive.
So you’ve just opened another branch in Southampton, but we heard you’re expanding and have two more Hoxton Bakehouses on the way. What drew you to Bishops Waltham and Petersfield?
Bishops Waltham and Petersfield are both beautiful towns with wonderful customers. They both don’t have a proper bakery so we’re hoping to fill the gap.
Let’s talk about you! When did you first hone your bakery skills?
I started cooking in London at the age of just 16, and completed a 3-year cooking apprenticeship sponsored by Waitrose at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. The training was fantastic and made me have a very good work ethic.
I then worked at The Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall for 4 years, before moving to the city to work at Allan & Overy law firm in London Liverpool Street in their fine dining kitchen for 5 years. We then made the decision to move down to Lymington as my mother was very unwell.
What do you like to cook at home when you’re away from the bakery?
When we are home we love to cook everything from scratch as our little boy has lots of allergies. But we always, on the weekend, get drawn into the Lymington shop for a fantastic Sunday morning breakfast of pastries and coffee.
What did you wish you knew before opening your first bakery?
I think the whole starting a bakery from scratch with no real business experience has been the biggest learning curve of all. But also has toughened Darren and I. I wouldn’t have changed anything, not even the bad days as you learn so much from them.
And touching on the current situation, how has it affected your business?
With the covid situation owe lost all of our wholesale trade overnight. This was around 60 customers. So we popped a little post out on our Instagram about home deliveries and it went mad overnight! We were so lucky for all of our wonderfully supportive customers.
Christmas is only a few months away now, what can we expect at Hoxton Bakehouse?
We already have our wonderful Hoxton mince meat available but have so much more to come. We can’t wait to start the Christmas menu as it’s our favourite time of year.
For more information on Hoxton Bakehouse, see here.