Landmark move for two community businesses as regeneration of Huntly continues
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THE regeneration of The Square in Huntly continues.
The Honesty Bakehouse and Neep and Okra, both Community Interest Companies, (CICs) have completed their move into The Square Deal, where extensive renovations being carried out by Deveron Projects are at an advanced stage.
Supported by the Scottish Land Fund, Deveron Projects bought the 200 year old property in 2019 to create a community asset to assist with regeneration and support local creativity.
Work on the £270,000 renovation and restoration of the project ground to a halt when Covid hit last year but in recent months it has been full steam ahead.
A shop until 2012, the building originally housed a tinsmith and the renovation work has set out to preserve as much of the property's history and heritage as possible.
Underpinning all the work is an ethos of reusing and preserving as much of the materials and original features as possible - beams which had to be removed will be re-purposed and units in the flat will be given a makeover rather than being replaced.
The building has been brought back to life and windows and doors which were previously blanked off to maximise shelf space opened up to allow more natural light.
Work continues on a rear workshop which is being converted to provide a fully accessible studio and living accommodation for visiting artists. A similar makeover is planned for the flat.
The front, ground floor area is complete and accommodates the two CICs which are supported by Deveron Projects.
The Honesty Bakehouse has gone from strength to strength since the pandemic and its products are much in demand.
A compact, kitchen has been created at the rear for the bakery and baker Kate Taylor-Beale is delighted.
The large central area of the ground floor is suitable for food demonstrations and similar events and will be a workspace for artists in residence who come to work on food, growing and gardening projects.
The front of the shop is now home to the Neep and Okra food project and the Strathbogie Seed Collective both looked after by Dawn Finch.
Project manager Robyn Wolsey who has been involved since the outset said: "We have worked with what we had to make the best use of the space and create something flexible that will allow us to host and create.
"We want it to be like a Living Room for the town, a place where people can pop into get bread, pick up a recipe, read a book or where events can be hosted."
Natalia Palombo who took over as director of Deveron Projects in February said: "Keeping the history of the building has been really important." Ms Palombo envisages a succession of chefs in residence using the space. First up will be a residency focussing on growing, gardening and food and there are plans for an open air solstice meal in The Square. She also plans to make the rear garden productive.
A Square Deal story book has been opened by Deveron Projects who are inviting anyone who previously worked there or has special memories of the property to pop in and share them in writing so that the history of the building is preserved.
The two new businesses in The Square Deal hope to grow and bring long term benefits to the community.
The Honesty Bakehouse is open from Wednesday until Saturday. Kate Taylor-Beale and Christine Sell make sourdough loaves, buns, pastries, cakes and quiches which are sold on a pay what you can, honesty shop basis from the shop and a novelty bike which sits outside.
Ms Taylor-Beale said: "It is a beautiful working space and being modern and new will be much easier to keep clean. There's more space and better lighting."
Dawn Finch, owner and cook at Neep and Okra creates recipe boxes and spice blends that enable people to make the most of local and seasonal produce.
She works around fresh, local, seasonal produce and adds global flavours to develop easy to cook meals with international accents.
She said: "The most complicated thing about my recipes is the spicing, and I’ve already done that bit for people. I’m so excited to be in this beautiful new space. It’s such a great opportunity and I’m hoping for an increase in sales because that will mean I can do lots more for the community.
"The Square Deal is also going to be the new home for the seed library so we really are growing together - literally!”
A community interest company is a type of company designed for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for the public good.