Diversity is one of the secrets behind the success of the oldest family business in Beaminster, who are celebrating 45 years of baking this week. And as we follow the footsteps of Shirley and Rob Samways from their time at the Evershot Bakery to opening the highly acclaimed, vegetarian Trading Post and Café, it is clear this family know how to keep things fresh, and delicious.
Rob has been baking since 1963, when at the tender age of 15 he began an apprenticeship at Evershot Bakery, soon becoming a Master Baker and taking over the bakery, alongside his wife Shirley in 1977.
Shirley and Rob opened a The Art Deco tea shop in Beaminster in 1980, where along with serving heavenly cakes and tasty teas, the ever-creative Shirley sold eye-catching art deco jewellery.
“I have always painted and at one time I used the café as a gallery for my watercolour paintings, of which I sold thousands all over the world,” said Shirley. “And of course, we were famous for our fish pies. When we opened the tea shop all those years ago, we had a special offer, our lovely homemade soup and as much Evershot bread as you could eat.”
At one time, the family owned three shops in a row on Hogshill. Shirley’s daughter Mel King bought the hairdresser’s, The Mop Shop two doors down while her father Sydney Day started selling his bric-a-brac and car boot finds in the shop in between.
“My father was a Cockney, and when my mum passed away he began to feel quite low. He loved car boot sales and I suggested he sell his finds in the shop. My youngest daughter wrote a book about him, called London Born, which publishers Harper & Collins picked up and sold. We had thousands of people in the shop and his garden wanting to interview him. He loved it.”
Since opening the tea shop, in 1980, the family have diversified in many ways. Shirley said: “About four years ago we renamed the café at The Trading Post and Café. I have been a vegetarian for most of my life, and always wanted to open a vegetarian café but there wasn’t the call for it, vegetarianism was considered a bit brown sandal. However, a couple of years ago, we decided it was the right time to make the café vegan and vegetarian.
“I have been wanting to retire for 20 years,” said Shirley, who is in her 80s, “And then at the time when we were going to retire, our café became busier and busier. Now vegan and vegetarianism is right on trend and very popular, in fact trade has doubled! We have become victims of our own success.”
Shirley has wanted to retire for many years, but the time has never seemed right, that is until now, their daughter Steffi has returned home from Thailand.
“Steffi has taken over buying the quirky brocante we sell, and I have reached a grand old age, so it seems a perfect time to take a step back and let Rob and Steffi carry on.”
“Mind you,” said Shirley, “I shall still be keeping an eye on things!”