Not many independent shops stand that all important test of time, but after 100 years in the business (and that’s not a typo) Oxfords Bakery in Dorset can definitely say it has.
Established by Frank Oxford in 1911 at Alweston in Dorset, Steve Oxford and his wife Gemma are now the fourth generation of the Oxford family still providing locals with daily-baked breads, cakes and pastries as well as locally produced meats and locally grown fruit and vegetables.
Oxfords Bakery is seemingly more than just a bakery, so I visit the branch on Haven Road in Canford Cliffs to check out everything they have on offer. I’m greeted by Heather, another family member, the mother of Gemma Oxford to be precise and she’s delighted to help me. She shows me around the quaint little bakery/delicatessen and I’m pleasantly surprised at the range of unusual products they have on offer.
There are a selection of locally-produced jarred goods from award-winning, organic food producers, Pink’s Organics in Dorset. There’s everything from Chilli & Ginger Jelly, which would go well with a plate of cold meats or cheese, to Pomodora Tapenade made from tomatoes, cashews & parmesan, which could be nice stuffed inside boned chicken or spread onto a fillet of fish.
Oxfords also supply a range of products from Dorset based company Olives Et Al, choose from a collection of unusual dressings and marinades including Beetroot & Thyme and Shallot & Orange, or there’s a pic ‘n’ mix counter of delightful Antipasti like olives, whole garlic cloves and sundried tomatoes. There’s also a tempting range of well-priced packaged goods like Sesame Nuts and Chilli Puffs.
So Oxfords have well and truly proved that they’re not just a simple bakery, although the smell wafting over from the tempting display of cakes and breads makes it clear that the bakery is definitely there. I watch as one customer leaves with a few cakes and sweet buns, and another opts for a large, wholemeal loaf. I’m impressed to learn that all of the breads use untreated, unbleached flour and are all preservative free, and Heather informs me that they’re freshly made every day in their bakery in Alweston, Dorset. In fact, Oxfords still use the same dough mixer and the same oven as they did a century ago, although now it’s fuelled by oil of course.
There’s also a sort of ’vinegar bar’, with a selection of unusual vinegars like Cranberry Vinegar, or Fig Balsamic. You can fill up a glass vinegar bottle and re-fill it when it’s empty.
Although all of these plus-points give Oxfords Bakery a distinct advantage over their larger competitors, it’s the sense of community spirit that impresses me. Heather greets everyone that enters, with the same welcoming charm she offered me, and the passion she shares for local produce is obvious, as she points out that all the eggs are delivered fresh from local farms, and so are the game and poultry that they have delivered directly to the shop.
As I wonder around Oxfords a little longer, I notice a fridge with homemade cottage pies in ready-to-heat foil containers, complete with hand-written heating instructions, as well as Dorset butter, Dorset Clotted Cream and local cheeses too. With growing concern for air mileage and just how far the products in our shopping baskets actually travel, I’m pleased to say that the service goes that extra mile, whilst the majority of food products certainly do not.