Ottery St Mary business man breathing new life into vacant former bakery
PUBLISHED: 19:29 21 May 2016
Mill Street premises set to become cafe and children's adventure zone
An Ottery businessman is breathing new life into a vacant town centre site with a unique ‘fairytale’ vision he hopes will boost the whole community.
The building formerly known as Millstone Bakery is to be transformed into a café and children’s adventure play area.
The project is a ‘labour of love’ for Ottregian Stuart Phillips, who envisions creating a place where friends and family can meet and allow youngsters to play in a safe and relaxed environment.
A small team, led by site manager Dave Hastings, has been working behind sealed doors for the last five months, painstakingly restoring the building ready for the grand reveal this summer.
Stuart, 47, explained it was purely by chance that he saw the former bakery for sale and spotted its potential as a central meeting spot for the community. He said: “We have had to demolish pretty much everything to start from scratch because I wanted the building to be good for at least 100 years. A lot of people thought I was nuts, but I just fell in love with the building.
“I’m a family man and have three children, so we often get in the car and drive out of town as there are limited things for children to do here - especially on rainy days. I love Ottery and truly believe we are very lucky to have such a fantastic community. I’ve been fortunate to have done reasonably well in my main business, so it’s nice to put something back into the future of the town which I grew up in.”
A roofing and cladding contractor, Stuart started his own business a decade ago and, after working on big projects around the country, is now enjoying the experience of ditching his suit and getting stuck in on home turf.
Taking inspiration from his children - Rosie, Molly and Connor - Stuart’s vision includes a handcrafted castle and treehouse interlinked with secret doorways, a rope bridge and a slide.
There will also be a life-size replica of the famous Hansel and Gretel candy house and a separate area for younger toddlers and babies to play safely.
The front room will incorporate a café and artisan bakery, with a big space beyond for children to enjoy exploring, reading or doing crafts. The very back of the building will be developed later with a separate entrance in Hind Street.
Stuart, of Ridgeway, added: “I do not want to compete with other businesses, I want to complement what’s already here and established. I think, if all the local traders work together, we can revive and rejuvenate the high street back to the days when it was full of customers enjoying the unique Ottery community shopping experience. This is all new for me, but I feel if everybody here pulls together, it could make us stronger as a town and an even nicer place to live and visit”