A FAMILY-run bakery business which was founded in Ryedale is closing six of its stores due to the coronavirus situation.

Thomas the Baker whose main craft bakery is based in Helmsley said it had been a difficult decision to temporarily shut six of its 30 branches from Monday, April 6.

The other 24 shops will remain open to provide customers with a range of bakery goods - despite the fact the business will be operating at a loss in the coming months.

The shops closing are: Goole, Wakefield, Skipton, Captain Cook Square and Marton Road in Middlesbrough and Marton Road, and Market Square in York.

Thomas the Baker was established in 1981 by John Thomas, his wife Valerie and sons Gareth and Simon, and is still a family business with three generations of Thomas’ working within the company.

Starting with one shop in Malton, the company now operates 30 across North, West and East Yorkshire and the North East, including a café in York and a deli in hometown Helmsley.

Simon Thomas, general manager at Thomas the Baker, said: “We would like to offer our sincere thanks to our wonderful, hardworking team and our loyal customers for all their support during this very difficult time.

"It has been a very difficult decision to close some of our shops as we are determined to maintain a vital service to our customers during these unprecedented times.

"We know many people have relied on us for staples such as bread and even the flour and yeast that we started selling when it became apparent people were struggling to source them elsewhere.

“However, our staffing levels have of course been impacted by the virus both at the main Helmsley Bakery and in store and we need to ensure the safety of those staff members who are still working and interacting with customers and colleagues every day.

"Thomas have voluntarily chosen to pay customer-facing shop staff their average full weekly commission despite the fact that the shops sales have declined dramatically.

"Those who are furloughed will also be paid their average commission despite the fact this is not a Government requirement.

"We looked carefully at which stores were experiencing a lower footfall, staff shortages or where we felt needs were being met by other businesses within the town. We feel it is the right decision to close these shops at the current time but will be reviewing that decision at regular intervals.”

Other measures put in place by the company include reducing the minimum card spend to £1 to encourage cashless transactions and only allowing a limited number of people in the shops at any one time.

In addition, stores are closing earlier than usual to allow for cleaning and to reduce the potential exposure time for those continuing to staff the shops.

Thomas is also working with local councils and voluntary groups where it may be able to offer assistance for those who have difficulty in getting to supermarkets.