Meet the Independents : Tough Mary's Bakehouse

Four - minute read

Each month, we profile the owner one of our favourite independent bars, cafés, restaurants or retailers for our Meet the Independents blog series. This month, we caught up with the owner of Tough Mary's Bakehouse in Nottingham…

If you’ve seen Tough Mary’s Bakehouse on Derby Road, Nottingham, you’ll remember it. Painted bright canary yellow, it stands out like a beacon along the row of shops as you climb the hill past the cathedral. This of course, is exactly as owner, Kate, intended. Passionate about simple, delicious food, she singlehandedly opened her own artisan bakery around 18 months ago, serving delicious sourdough bread, light, flaky croissants, sticky pecan buns, decadently filled doughnuts – and more.

Originally from South London, she studied at Nottingham Trent University and fell in love with the place, so trained as a pastry chef and baker and came back to set up shop. We grabbed a few minutes with her on our recent day trip to Nottingham to find out more…

What does a typical working day look like for you?

I start at 3.30am. Make all the croissants, shape and bake some of the loaves in the morning and then I start mixing for the next day. At around this time [2pm] I’m probably shaping some of the sweet doughs and baking cakes. And then hopefully I get chance to do some testing for new stuff, but I usually have to sit down and do things like rotas. I have someone who comes in and does front of house and makes sandwiches. They help with making the cakes, blondies and brownies and our peanut, date & chocolate bar. However, I’m the only one who does the bread and yeasted goods at the moment.

You serve drip coffee and tea. Do you get a lot of people coming in and asking for a tall skinny soya latte? And is fancy coffee something you’d like to branch out into?

I don’t really know. I don’t really believe in it wholeheartedly. I think it’s something that will require a specific member of staff and I’d have to redesign the front of house to put a coffee machine in. Also, there are quite a lot of specialist coffee shops in Nottingham and we’re not that; we’re a bakery. We’re hoping people will come to us for bread and cakes and croissants and go to them for their cappuccino. But we still serve really good coffee, it’s just not espresso-based.

What are your most popular products?

After sandwiches and coffee, it’s doughnuts, croissants and our blondie.

Tell me about the name Tough Mary’s?

It’s an Etta James song, Tough Mary. It’s also a family middle name, it’s my middle name, my mom’s, my granny’s – I’m from an Irish catholic background.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs hoping to set up their own business?

I’d probably say do it with someone else, because it’s hard setting up on your own. That sounds quite sad doesn’t it?! And just do whatever you want to do. I couldn’t decide whether it would be ok to paint the shop yellow; I was worried that the council would say no. But then I thought, no, I want a yellow shop – I’m just gonna do it! I had to submit designs to the council and I had a dark grey and a yellow option, but in the end, I just sent them the yellow one. I thought, I’m not letting you decide my branding!

Also, if you do something that you don’t wholeheartedly believe in, then that will probably show.

For more on Tough Mary’s, visit

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