New bakery to open in Kent town named the best place to live in the south east

Rachel outside the shop front
-Credit: (Image: Rachel Gasson)

A sell-out baking stall that was set up by a former nurse will open its first permanent shop in Kent next month. Rachel Leigh Bakes first started trading on Folkestone's Harbour Arm in 2022 when Rachel Gasson decided to pursue her love of baking.

Now, with business booming, mum-of-four Rachel, who has lived in Folkestone since she was just four years old, will open her first shop in the heart of the town in Folkestone's Creative Quarter. "I absolutely loved being a nurse but working through the Covid-19 pandemic forced me to reflect on what I wanted for my own life," Rachel, 34, said.

"My work-life balance wasn't great, and I knew I needed to take the leap and do something | was passionate about, but which also let me spend more time with my husband and children. My colleagues in intensive care always devoured my bakes and would get excited when I came into work with a cake tin!"

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The baking stall was an instant hit at the Harbour Arm, regularly selling out with customers taking to social media to rave about favourites like cinnamon buns and cookie pie. Other bakes include cheese scones with bacon jam, and cardamom buns.

Rachel’s market stall set up
Rachel’s market stall set up -Credit:Rachel Gasson

"The response to the stall was incredible, and I met so many lovely people there," Rachel said, "but two Christmas markets and another baby later, I was struggling to keep up with the demand baking from my tiny home kitchen, so I applied for the Creative Quarter and here we are!

"Getting the keys was definitely a 'pinch me' moment, and I still don't believe that I'll be opening my own bakery. To think I have been walking down The Old High Street my whole life, never knowing that one day I would have my own little shop among so many talented creative businesses here, is really quite surreal."

Setting up the shop has been a family affair, with husband and electrician Matt, 34, fitting out the electrics, and their children, Evelyn, 10, Charlie, eight, Violet, five, and Matilda, one, diligently taste-testing ahead of the grand opening.

“Matt has been so supportive of my venture,” Rachel said. "From lugging my gazebo around in the early days on the platform to now doing all of the electrical work in the new shop. I couldn’t be more excited for this next step.”

Rachel at the bottom of the Old High Street
Rachel at the bottom of the Old High Street -Credit:Rachel Gasson

The bakery will also sell coffee with beans from local company &Bloss for customers to takeaway. Rachel Leigh Bakes will open on June 8 at 9am.

The shop will be open from 8.30am to 2.30pm Wednesday to Friday, and from 9am to 3pm Saturdays and Sundays. It is located at: 48 The Old High Street, Folkestone, CT20 1RN.

Earlier this year, The Sunday Times published its annual Best Places to Live guide and Folkestone impressively came out on top for the entire region for 2024. Read more here.

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