No horsing around for this small business

Chloe Bell
By Chloë Bell, Content Journalist

Meet Melanie Martin, a savvy small business owner who’s always on the lookout for her next quirky venture.  

The Hinny Bakebox is her latest brainchild. Set to burst on to the scene next month, it will offer blissfully brilliant food with a unique take on al-fresco dining. And Melanie is excited about the next steps. 

“We’ve still got the Tea Room at the moment” says Melanie “We’re in the process of selling it, we actually decided to sell right before the pandemic hit last year, but I think the past 12 months have confirmed it was the right decision.” 

She added “We’ve never really been one for take-outs, the Tea Room has always been the kind of place people come into and sit down with friends although during the lockdowns we did start doing home deliveries of afternoon teas, cupcake boxes and traybakes.” 

Melanie explained that she had to come up with new ways to adapt during the pandemic.  

She said “When people were allowed to meet up in small groups after the first lockdown, we began catering for small parties and gatherings, things like that, we just tried to be as flexible and creative as we could. If people wanted to borrow our china or cake stands for events, then we’d let them do that.” 

A wooden bar area with a bucket of flowers and a heart-shaped bowl of fruit

An Al-Fresco experience with a twist 

Although Melanie loved nurturing the much-loved family run tea room, and had enjoyed the feeling of community it brought with it, she found herself itching to dive in at the deep end and try something a little different. It was a big decision to make, particularly as she had enjoyed so much success with Melanie’s Tea Room, which won local awards two years in a row and been a massive hit with the locals.  

“We’ve won awards for our effort in our tea room, for our food and as best new businesses, we were even awarded one of the first prizes for the standard of our loos! People seemed to really love and appreciate the amount of effort we’d put in. We’ve always had a great customer base too.” 

But Melanie was on the hunt for something more inventive as the lockdowns stretched on She began to ponder how she could conjure up a creative new business venture but also keep up with what customers were now interested in. Getting back outside. 

Al fresco entertainment has become a clever way for many businesses to keep their heads above water throughout the restrictions. And it’s a fresh new way to keep customers engaged.  

“I think that outdoor events are so popular at the moment, people don’t seem to feel as safe indoors” explains Melanie on her reasoning to swing towards this very different type of catering. 

“You see so many outdoor cinemas and street markets, I think a lot of people will be holidaying in this country this year. So, we got our thinking caps on and decided to try something new, which is how the horsebox came about.” 

She continued “I think sometimes you just have to do something, if you think about it too much then you’ll never try it. I discussed an idea for a horsebox conversion with my husband Paul one evening, I came up with some ideas for food I'd like to sell, and I think we’d found and bought the horsebox a few days later. It was very quick!” 

A wooden bar with a bottle that says 'with love' on it, an ornament of two birds marked 'Mr' and 'Mrs' and a small vase of lavender

Trotting into new territory  

Melanie wasn’t horsing about, that’s for sure. With the horsebox repurposed, decorated, and hooked up with electricity, she tells Bionic it’s now almost ready to be unleashed. The final addition though, was coming up with the name. 

Melanie thought long and hard about how to aptly capture the community feel of the horsebox whilst also keeping it fun and lighthearted. 

“The horsebox is going to be called Hinny Bake Box” she tells Bionic proudly “We love to support local businesses and we’re proud of our community, Singing Hinnies are a Northumberland specialty, they’re a bit like Welsh cakes but at the tea room we’d make them with all different flavours. We wanted to name the horsebox something that shows we’re proud to be local.” 

Melanie continued “The Hinny Bake Box is going to be selling a lot of local food. In the tea room I'd make fresh scones every morning, in all different flavours-raspberry and coconut, blueberry, chocolate. Our cheese ones were very popular too, we used this local cheese called Northumberland Nettle, so we’d always get a lot of interest in those.” 

“We’re also wanting to sell French toast cooked on a griddle, using brioche buns. But they’ll all have different toppings like lemon meringue, strawberry cheesecake and Eton mess. The tea and coffee we’re selling from Hinny Bake Box is all locally sourced too, the coffee we use is ground a few miles down the road.” 

It seems like Melanie has indeed managed to capture what our new way of life should be about with Hinny Bake Box, promoting our small businesses and being proud of our local towns. 

“I think people are just dying to get out and about, so we wanted to adapt and do something a bit different. The pandemic has made us think about things completely differently.” 

Melanie is looking forward to the future, excited to get the Hinny Bake Box out there into the world when it’s finally ready to get trotting next month. It seems like Northumberland locals are definitely in for a scrumptious summer indeed! 

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