Grandma's Home Bakes - Maidstone Market regular keeps punters coming back for more
Stallholder June Austin explains how a supportive community and personal touch is helping her to bake a living at Maidstone Market.
"It’s such a sociable atmosphere, all the stallholders help each other out. And the customers find it more friendly than a normal shop – it’s what keeps them coming back."
Having previously worked in community healthcare and as a childminder, it wasn’t until her mid-40s that June Austin started trading at markets. With an interest in crafts and sewing, she started out at boot fairs, fetes and school fairs, selling home-made childrenswear and baby accessories such as quilts, moses and pram covers and matching umbrellas.
It was when a fellow trader suggested she try a county market that she realised she could put her talent for cookery to good use, too. June went on to work at farmers’ markets and it was there that her baking took off, leading her to set up Grandma’s Home Bakes. Having previously had a stall at Maidstone Market before the pandemic, since restrictions allowed in summer 2020 June has returned and been a regular presence.
Offering everything from delicious pastries, cakes, biscuits, sausage rolls, quiches and celebration cakes, to name a few, June has built up a solid customer base.
“We get a lot of regulars and lots of them put orders in, which they pick up the following week. And if there’s something they want that we don’t have – gluten-free or vegan – whatever it is, I’m happy to make it for them. It’s a really personal service.”
But it’s not just amazing bakes – June shares half of her stall with a friend, Sheila, who makes babies’ knitwear, cushions, toys, blankets and vintage clothes. The pair support each other, with June often lending a hand with the knitting orders.
Being a well-known, regular stall at the market has seen business thrive recently, as June explains, “People know we’re there now and tell others and they’re just buying more and more. We’ve got really busy and doubled our takings over the past few months. It’s going really well.”
A focus on local events in the market hall helps to drum up trade, too. The monthly craft fair and special events such as the recent dog show saw a surge in visitors to the market. June is also looking forward to the full opening of Lockmeadow soon, which is expected to drive footfall even more.
It’s a diverse shopping destination, with stalls offering everything from sweets, kitchen items, bedding, fruit and veg, healthcare and crafts. But, June says, there are opportunities for newcomers, “There’s always room for something different. When I used to do farmers’ markets, meat and cheese stalls always did really well and I think something like that could work well here.”
What advice would she give to potential stallholders?
“The stalls are really good value so it’s definitely worth giving it a go. But you’ve got to give it a bit of time for business to build up. Once people know where you are and that you’re there all the time, they come back and look for you.
“My best tips would be to offer an ordering service – that works really well for us. And think about getting a card machine. It makes it much easier for the customer to pay and they tend to spend a little bit more.”
For now, June is looking forward to what the future brings for the market and plans to continue to be a regular fixture every Tuesday and Saturday. Business is doing well and most importantly, as she says, “it’s always a good giggle.”