They say a true blue bakery can be judged by the quality of its meat pies and vanilla slices – which makes the small town of elmore one to add to your next road trip. baking business catches up with the proud families behind elmore bakery to find out how a splash of beer and a lick of paint can make all the difference.
You know you’re onto a good thing when you can no longer fit customers in your front door. After growing the business for six years, the team behind Elmore Bakery decided it was time to go bigger and better, and, after gutting the place and starting again, have now reopened with a fresh new look.
With twice as much cabinet space, a generous retail area, a couple of coats of fresh white paint and seating for around 60 people, the entire bakery has been overhauled – and co-owners and bakers Travis Wilson and Nathan Bowes couldn’t be happier.
“We’ve extended everything from our work area out the back right through to the front. We’ve worked hard to bring more customers in every year and expand the product range to meet their needs, and we simply outgrew the space,” Travis says.
“The bakery hadn’t had much done to it for a good 10 years, so it was cramped and outdated. The fashion now is for clean, fresh, bright and open bakeries, and you have to move with the times,” Nathan adds.
Cabinet manufacturer Complete Display Equipment should have added a trophy cabinet, because this year alone, the Elmore team has brought home an impressive haul of awards. Proving it’s up there with the best, Travis and Nathan baked some notable pies for this year’s Official Great Aussie Pie Competition, taking home a gold medal for their chunky meat pie and placing third overall in the plain pie category. The team’s pulled pork and cider, and beef, beer and chilli pies were also praised by judges for displaying great originality.
“Nathan made a casserole using beer and beef at home and said it tasted great, so we put it in a pie and it sold really well. It’s a great winter warmer,” Travis says.
“The trick is using really high-quality ingredients that hold their own. For example, we use James Squire Golden Ale, which is a really nice beer with fruity notes, and the beef is always of a really high quality.”
Winning gold at Fine Food Australia was not only a huge accolade for the bakery, it also was a massive shoutout to the small town of Elmore, home to just 600-or-so people. Nathan and Travis work closely with Elmore Meats, the town’s butcher for nearly 20 years. They also get fresh produce trucked in from Bendigo daily, and use Laucke flour from Bridgewater on Loddon – just an hour’s drive away.
Despite the accolades and the shiny trophies sitting proudly on top of the cabinet, Travis and Nathan are humble by nature. As a result, the bakery line sits somewhere between a typical suburban bakery and a high-end boulangerie-patisserie, taking in everything from white sliced bread and chicken parma pasties through to perfectly presented choux pastry, tarts and doughnuts.
“We’re in a position where we are in a rural town, but we get a lot of people come up from Melbourne on their way to Echuca. We don’t want to overcomplicate things for the locals, but at the same time, we’re in a touristy place, so we need to jazz it up to make it enticing for visitors who come from out of town,” Travis says.
“For the regulars, we also try to play around with the pies to keep things interesting. We’ll always keep the classics, such as the chunky beef, but we do like to move towards lighter, more summery-style pies in the hot months, and push the real winter warmers when its cold,” Nathan adds.
The pair certainly has the experience to know what customers want. Both have been bakers since they were teenagers, with Nathan working in a supermarket bakery and Travis a production manager before making the transition to their own business.
“I just got to the point where I was putting in long hours for little return, and my wife Dee and I thought we might as well have a crack at it ourselves,” Nathan says.
“At that point, Elmore Bakery was for sale, and the rest is history. My wife and I have had it for six years now, with Travis and his wife Leah coming on board in the last 16 months-or-so.”
With the ladies handling the books and helping out in the shop, the team is strong and tightknit. There are even a few small helpers on hand to offer constructive criticism.
“Nathan’s two kids are three years and eight months old, so they can hardly see over the bench! But I’ve got a six-, a three-, and a two-year-old, so they certainly enjoy coming into the bakery,” Travis says.
“I don’t think you can call it helping, but they are brutally honest taste testers!”
The paint has not long dried on the walls of Elmore Bakery, but already the team says it will evolve with the times and, if the opportunity presents itself, continue moving onwards and upwards.
“If you’re not looking to grow your business you will become stale. Never say never to having a second business, you just need the right place and timing,” Nathan says.
“Owning a bakery is hard work, particularly when it comes to having a family and working the long hours we do. But there is always another opportunity around the corner.”