Heartbreak as popular Lancaster bakery closes doors for good after 10 years of 'constant struggle'

Filbert's Bakery on King Street in Lancaster
Filbert's Bakery on King Street in Lancaster -Credit:Jude Tolson/ Lancs Live

A Lancaster bakery has closed its doors for good, citing the 'constant struggle' to run a small business.

Filbert's Bakery on King Street announced last Wednesday (May 8), they would be shutting "effective immediately". In a statement, bosses said they "worked really hard to avoid this," but ultimately the decision had to be made.

Taking to social media, owners Joe and Fil explained "a bit of everything" was behind the heartbreaking decision. This included Covid, Brexit, the global economy, health, family, location and timing, were all part of their closure.

Filbert's state bread is "the oldest of things" but recently, has become more of a luxury that only few can afford.


Part of their announcement reads: "Operating a small business over the last 10 years has been a constant struggle (lovely, much of the time, but very hard). Partially to do with us not really knowing what we were doing for quite a while, but partially because we’ve seen two proto-recessions, incompetent political leadership, a global pandemic, and the stark impacts of serious climate change; all woven together into an anxious and unpredictable tapestry.

"We sit at a point in the market where we can’t keep raising prices - our bread is already a luxury item for many, where it should be a staple. How have we got so far from the traditional village bakery that the healthiest and simplest of products is reserved for the wealthy?

"We have both a moral and practical reason to keep our prices as low as can be borne. Too high and people from lower income households can’t come in the first place, and everyone else stops spending as much, which is what we’ve already seen over the last 6 months (average spend is nearly half what it was this time last year)."

Filbert's Bakery have stated they may become one of the 83 small businesses that will close their business on one particular day, equating to 30,000 in 2024 alone. This is caused by increasing costs in all aspects of the shop, including costs for ingredients, energy and wages - but to name a few.

For Filbert's, global market shifts meant ingredients had become too expensive to maintain, as the olive harvest has failed for two years in a row and the war in Ukraine has spiked the cost of vegetable oil. They stated: "The olive harvest has failed two years in a row due to climate change related drought and bad weather, which you are seeing now in the price of olive oil in the supermarkets. We saw that coming a year ago and bought A LOT of olives, so we could keep doing olive bread - one of our firm favourites.

"The war in Ukraine saw a spike in vegetable oil prices for all our vegan products. Chocolate is the newest casualty with the South American crops being ravaged by years of loss (this is year three, with another expected next year, increasing year on year costs by 245%).

"The chickpea harvest failed last year and is vulnerable again this year. British wheat has been hit by the ‘unseasonal’ wet weather we’ve had this year so is only expecting 40% of its harvest.

"This story is happening everywhere, all the time. It is only the artificial padding of our economies and the emptying of stockpiles that has kept things stable, but we expect this relative stability to begin to unravel. Prices will rise, harvests will fail, small business will pay the cost."

Energy costs for Filbert's also increased dramatically, as bills rose from £350 per month to nearly £1,000. Wage increases also made them feel "trapped" as the cyclical issue of having to hike price to meet other cost increases was never-ending.

"We have always been embarrassed to be a minimum wage employer. Why is the skilled work of a baker worth less than a plumber? Or an office worker? So we pay pennies above it as best we can, with an optimistic intention to some day pay a fairer wage. But with all of these other costs, we’re trapped.

"The yearly increases are absolutely deserved but another external mechanism that forces us to raise our prices to meet it, which in turn reduces average spend in the shop or turns customers away. Enough is enough at some point right?

"Now I know that if we were in a different location, or a bigger premises, or had a better oven, or more time, or any number of things that we don’t actually have, then our economy of scale would be different. That we may be able to weather these challenges better. But we aren’t, and we don’t, and we’ve been running on fumes for too long."

At the end of their statement, a heartfelt message was made to the customers and locals who supported the business during its decade in the town. It reads: "We can’t help but feel that we are letting you all down, but the local economy just can’t support us in the current version of Filbert’s so we’ve run out of time. We’ve run out of Fil.

"We’re putting our own mask on first. So thank you all for your suggestions of new and wonderful versions we could try. Thank you for the offers of cash or investment or collaboration. We see you, and we know that something may be possible from all of this love, but not for us, not right now.

"Thank you to our staff, to Sally, Antonio, Bonni, Madi, Zion, and Reuben. Who are all shocked and hurting and should hold their heads high. Thanks for being part of teh Filbert's family. Thank you to our collaborators: The Patten arms, The Printroom, The Morecambe bay chowder company, The Brittlestar Winebar, The Runner Duck.

"Thank you to all of you, our friends and customers. We love you all.

"Please be patient with us while we grieve our way through this process, and if anyone can support our wonderful staff, we’d be very grateful indeed.

"Perhaps when the dust has settled, there will be space and energy for some new version of Filbert’s flavoured love."