Polish bread secrets…
He started from scratch. Today, he has become the owner of the bakery supplying 60 shops, including two of the company stores, in bread and bakery produce on a 200sq km area. Miroslaw Zubicki is not going to stop.
He tries to be everywhere. If he is needed, he helps on the production line, supervises accountancy or watches the quality of his produce. There is always something to be done.
"Our bread is very specific. Our customers travel long distance to buy few loaves. Even when they go on holiday to Poland, they buy some to show their families what a fantastic bakery they have here" says Miroslaw revealing that the secret lays in the old recipe from the 1970s. Contrary to modern bakeries that use artificial ingredients, Miroslaw uses a natural sourdough in his produce. He does agree that it requires longer working hours (up to 16 and not 2 as in a standard production), but the result is very impressive.
According to Mr Zubicki, people are not aware that every individual needs to choose the bread they eat basing on their preferences and ingredients of the produce, especially the sourdough which affects the smell and taste of the bread as well as the functioning of our natural gut flora.
The hook outside the window…
Mr Zubicki was raised by a poor family in Olawa, Poland. His mother used to be a cleaner and his father worked in a building industry. The family was too poor to provide him with a pack up for school, pocket money was just a dream and any earnings he saved while doing some seasonal field work he always handed over to his parents. He had many duties at home, including chopping wood or carrying coal. The family lived in the loft and the shared toilet was on the ground floor. For many years, they used to bathe in a big washtub in the kitchen and instead of the fridge they had a hook outside the window where they hang out foods.
Regardless the situation, Miroslaw used to be a curious and lively boy who played football all day and read books at night. He did not have any difficulties at school- he received many awards and moved to each school year with honours. It seemed obvious he was going to study at a university one day. However, due to financial reasons, after graduating from primary school, Miroslaw chose a vocational training to study bakery. There was a real bakery not so far away from his home and the smell of fresh bread always tempted anyone who was crossing the street.
After gaining the qualifications, Miroslaw completed the compulsory military service in Gliwice, Poland. He managed really well and was often praised for his service. He was even recognized as a distinguished grenade launcher shooter by the ‘’Zolnierz Polski’’ magazine. While in the army he met his future wife Danuta, the graduate of a railway vocational school, with whom he has had four children- three sons and one daughter. They have also adopted the son of Miroslaw’s deceased sister.
It was not very easy to make ends meet. Mr Zubicki worked in various bakeries in Olawa and surrounding towns. For 12 years in the summer he was as a fruit picker in Gierstadt, Germany where he worked for up to twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
"It was a very hard work. Danuta was afraid to climb the ladder so I had to pick apples, pears or plums while she was carrying four buckets with fruit at a time for weighing. When it was raining, I used to make doughnuts and sweet buns and sell them among the community." recalls Mr Zubicki mentioning his kids stayed in Poland with their grandparents or aunties at that time.
Barefoot but with spurs…
England. The country of residence of many Polish fellow- countrymen. What does he like best in here? No bureaucracy, easy way of resolving official problems, people smiling. If only the weather has been bit better…
Mr Zubicki admits that he likes reading good books in his free time, although he does not have it much. The books about II World War and cursed soldiers are his cup of tea. He also likes the Stanislaw Grzesiuk’s trilogy- ‘’Five years in concentration camps’’, ‘’Barefoot but with spurs’’ and ‘’On the margin of life’’. He has read it several times always admiring the author’s character thanks to which he managed to survive difficult times.
Mr Zubicki has never been afraid of challenges. In November 2004, not long after Poland has joined the EEU, he has emigrated to England being 40 years old and settled in Worksop, Nottinghamshire where he worked in the local sandwich factory for a while. After the deduction of room costs, he was usually left with £70 per week. He would leave £15 for himself and send the rest to his wife. He used to live with 10 roommates and bread with butter, eggs and chips were his only meals.
He was lucky though- half a year later he became the first Polish person in the town who received a Council house. Regardless the insecure location and bad state of the house, Miroslaw was very happy as he was joined by his wife and children (ages 8-18 at that time). They started adjusting to the English reality. They used to sleep on the floor and the basic equipment was bought after every payday. The cutlery, fridge, hoover… Second-hand of course.
Mr Zubicki was employed in the factory but he also made doughnuts and baked bread in his free time to aid the family budget. Finally, after 10 years of being a resident in the UK, he decided to open his own bakery. It was December 2014, few days before Christmas, when Miroslaw invested all his savings in the business he has always wanted, including the money left from selling his flat in Poland.
- Together with my partner I decided to risk it. He was a mechanic, I knew the baking profession, what could have gone wrong? We found a very small 50 sqm place. All the machinery and equipment were brought from Poland. Many people doubted we could have become successful.- says Miroslaw and highlights that today the bakery looks different than at the start of the business as there is one more room added to the facilities. At the beginning, he was doing night shifts with his wife and he and his partner (whom he parted with 2 years ago) worked behind the counter on alternate days. After few months he employed a baker and a pastry cook and the production has increased. They had to look for new places of sale- short nap after the night shift, bread bag into the car and off to promote the produce in the surrounding shops.
Medium and long-distance running. How great it is to put your trainers on, reset your own thoughts, fight with your weaknesses. Mr Zubicki took part in many competitions like a marathon in Venice, 11 half-marathons as well as a 25 km challenge in the Alps in Lichtenstein. He can still remember the ‘’Brutal’’ run across a military compound in Longmoor. It was a real challenge- muddy route, ditches, hills, half-frozen lake to swim through. There were many difficult moments but when he reached the finish, he was more than happy.
- That was seven years ago but I still picture that moment in my mind. Great memories and the faith in your abilities. – says Mr Zubicki admitting that the determination he gained while the competitions is very helpful when leading the business.
He always keeps in touch with the bakery, even when on family holidays. Together with his wife, he visited many interesting countries: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Lichtenstein, Spain. Their best memories are from Morocco where they travelled 4000 km in a rented car. On their own, with no travel agency involved, they visited remote places not necessarily explored by tourists. In Egypt they did not get bored either. They spent some time in a Nubian village where they were warmly welcomed by the natives and in Cairo where they wondered in the streets at night drinking bamboo juice and smoking shisha with the locals.
- Tourists do not usually do such things but I like adventures. My wife trusts me and she knows that if I decide to do something, it must be ok.- ensures Miroslaw.
He started from scratch, now he employs 20 people. The bakery works all the time, seven days a week. It constantly expands supplying 60 shops, including two of the company stores, in bread and bakery produce on a 200km area. Its owner is not going to slow down, he thinks about increasing production and opening other facilities, in London as well.
His children settled well in the UK. His daughter works in a reputable company, two of his sons are professional drivers (HGV and HGV class 2 drivers), another one helps in the bakery and the youngest one works in a factory and knows English very well so it is not his final destination.
- I am happy everything works well although there is much more to do. I hope that one day we will come back to Poland, buy a cottage on the shore of a lake in the Masuria so we can enjoy the nature and travel to England in free time to supervise the business.- plans Miroslaw.