Portrait of Bath: Basil’s Bakery

Basil Athanasiou, Basil’s Bakery

From Thessaloniki, Greece to Bath is a long journey for a family with three young children, but for Basil and his wife Noula it has proved to be a rewarding decision.

Basil Athanasiou and his wife Noula are from Thessaloniki, a port city on the Aegean. Basil used to own and run two bakeries there and Noula had a regular job as a chemical engineer. That all changed during the Greek economic crisis, which was triggered by a worldwide recession.

Basil’s bakeries were open but none of their customers had enough money to buy very much, and bread was the only staple that they were buying. Then Noula lost her job. “I couldn’t find anywhere as an engineer because unemployment was very high – and then there just wasn’t enough money to raise a family with three kids,” she says.

So in 2013, with three young children aged 3, 6 and 8, the couple had to take action. They decided to sell the shops to raise money to start again, and came up with the idea of coming to the UK. The next stage was to find a job as a baker for Basil, and after applying for numerous positions, he was offered a job at Bertinet Bakery in Bath. He came to work there and stayed for three months to be sure it would work, and then Noula followed with their three boys.

Basil was very determined”, says Noula. “He said that everything would be alright – and he was right”

Noula admits that she was so anxious when they first came, especially for the children, but they found nothing but friendliness from the local community in Bath, and this really helped them settle in. After a couple of years, Basil wanted to start his own bakery and found a suitable location in Locksbrook. “Basil was very determined,” says Noula. “He said that everything would be alright – and he was right.”

“When we opened the bakery in Locksbrook it was just me serving and Basil in the kitchen at the back, but everything went very well and the business started to take off,” she says.

Now Basil and Noula have taken over the premises next door to give them more space and they will be offering seating for customers. The bakery produces a combination of British baked goods, such as white tins, harvester and wholemeal loaves and the ever-popular sourdough, alongside Greek specialities such as sesame rings (koulouri Thessalonikis), cinnamon rolls, olive bread, mpougatsa breakfast pastries, baklava and the recently introduced spinach and feta pie, or spanakopita.

Basil’s Bakery, Locksbrook Works, Unit 1 Locksbrook Road, Bath; basilsbakery.co.uk