Claypath Delicatessen, just a 5 minute walk from Durham Marketplace, is sourcing sustainable ingredients, feeding customers and thriving amid Covid. I talked to proprietors Rory and Angela Handy, who have created an oasis of handmade baked goods including sourdough bread that is so good that German tourists (connoisseurs of Brot) might name it their #1 food destination in County Durham.
Food Durham volunteers played a small part in facilitating Claypath Deli, 11 years ago, when board member Amy Mycock recruited us to volunteer for a Saturday crew clearing bricks and glass from the ground for a greenhouse.
Besides soup, salads, sandwiches, desserts and coffee, Claypath Deli became a third place for neighbourhood meetings, and music nights with pizza. But the Deli might have foundered in Covid-19 lockdowns, were it not allowed to stay open as an essential business, offering takeaway food at the doorstep, and via Deliveroo. When lockdown eased, social distancing was improved by expanding an outside area for 25 diners.
I interviewed Angie and Rory to find out how Claypath Deli continues to thrive in an economy that has left Durham City with dozens of closed shops:
*Where do you source flour (or sourdough starter) for your handmade breads?
Angie: “Our starter is now 8 years old, we made it ourselves, You just keep feeding the starteR with flour and water and it keeps giving us delicious bread. Our flour currently comes from Shipton Mill in Gloucester. We would use local, but need a guaranteed, solid supply in case of future lockdowns. During the first lockdown our local flour supplier ran out completely, and we were left with no flour for 2 weeks, unable to trade.”
*Is inflation much of a problem?
Rory: “Yes, all of our stock is going up at the moment. It seems every industry is raising prices for some reason. Coffee trees being killed by frost in Brazil is the most recent.”
*What can local authorities do to improve local food chains for businesses like yours?
Angie: “Maybe create network and tasting events for local suppliers and buyers.”
*How do you retain healthy, friendly staff during Covid?
Angie: “Other than social distancing, mask wearing and regular testing… Always treat your staff well, feed them and water them and pay them fairly.
The deli can be a fast-paced environment like most hospitality, but it’s rewarding and fun.”