Bakery to close its Long Stratton store
Rising costs and dropping footfall have been blamed by a bakery business, which is shutting one of its shops.
The Long Stratton Tudor Bakehouse outlet will close on September 29, with owner Paul Muncila saying it was one of his toughest business decisions he has had to make.
“It really will be a sad day for us,” he said. “We have a good business and fantastic staff.”
But with even more traffic passing through the centre of Long Stratton and the only bank closing, there are fewer people shopping in the village, said the businessman.
A former draughtsman, Mr Muncila added the Long Stratton shop to his business after taking over Tudor Bakehouse in 1990.
He will continue to run two shops in Harleston, as well as shops in Diss and Eye, and said he was working on a business plan to ensure they all remained open.
The 60-year-old, who has a payroll of 50 full and part-time staff, said Eye was a unique town. With businesses such as the Co-op and the Handyman store to complement his bakery, people stay in the town to shop, he said.
Harleston put in a lot of effort to keep the high street healthy, although he had still noticed a drop in footfall and the closure of the long-established Dennys hardware store was a loss to the whole town, he said.
In Diss, where his shop is on Market Hill, he said he appreciated the intentions of the Heritage Triangle project but the drop in footfall was particularly marked. “When you look up Pump Hill, there is nothing there,” he said.
“Mere Street used to have lovely little shops as well. I don’t think people are coming into the town as they used to. When footfall goes, you lose out on turnover.
“As a business, you just have to make tough decisions.”
Mr Muncila said that, as well as rents and rates, pension contributions were costing him £15,000 a year – and there had just been an increase in the price of flour.
“I can’t cut back on raw materials and I am being as competitive as I can,” he said.
“A loaf takes four hours and two skilled bakers to produce, The price should be about £4 a loaf.
“If you go back to the ‘60s, it used to be that a gallon of petrol, a loaf of bread or a pint of beer would cost the same price. A suit was a week’s earnings and a house a year’s earnings.
“The only thing that has not increased is a loaf of bread.”
High streets everywhere were under pressure, which he thought was, in part, due to uncertainties over Brexit and the effect on the country’s economy. “People don’t feel confident any more,” he said.
However, he was also anxious to avoid “painting a picture of all doom and gloom”.
“Small business like me have to reinvent themselves,” he added.