Glenreagh Bakery finds the recipe for success

Glenreagh Bakery finds the recipe for success

From a former maintenance office to a thriving country bakery that’s gaining a reputation as a tourist hotspot, Glenreagh Bakery is actively working towards standing apart from the crowd. Baking Business sat down with owner Brooke Stephen to talk about the process.

Like many small towns Glenreagh, located half-an-hour from Coffs Harbour, is home to a few essential businesses the residents rely heavily on.

Included in this number is Glenreagh Bakery. However, it’s important to note this is not your average country bakery.

Owner Brooke Stephen took over the business two-and-a-half years ago, when she and her partner, Lee Goldsmith, decided to move out of Sydney.

A former teacher, Brooke said she had come to visit family in the region when her uncle mentioned the bakery was up for sale.

“It all just fell into place at the right time. Obviously with me being a pastry chef and a baker, my uncle told me [it was up for sale] and I just thought ‘why not?’. We were already looking to get out of Sydney,” Brooke said.

“It was during COVID and I was teaching, but it was getting a little hard in my field because we were relying a lot on international students. Plus, I’ve always wanted to try a business.”

With the decision made, Brooke and Lee packed their bags and headed north. However, there were a few tough months ahead of them.

The bakery itself was a former maintenance office that had been moved onto the site 40 years prior and converted into a bakery. In that time it had changed hands a few times and had even been closed for a few years.

The Glenreagh residents also had firm opinions about the bakery range, which at the time focused predominantly on pies and bread, and would often say to Brooke ‘I hope you’re not going to change the bread!’.

“It’s a small town and people here rely on essential businesses and it took us a little bit to work that out, because things didn’t work originally,” Brooke said.

“But we stuck with it and we listened to what the community wanted. These things had been a very staple range here for quite a long time. But then we slowly worked on improving the quality of things and introduced a few new products like cakes and traditional French pastries.”

Despite initially being met with hesitation, the growing range was eventually welcomed by the locals, and even began attracting people from Coffs Harbour and Grafton who were enjoying weekend daytrips.

The positive response is a credit to the talent of Brooke and her team, as behind the scenes in those first few months they were wrestling with an outdated oven that desperately needed upgrading.

“I was producing some good stuff, but the main thing you need to deliver a product is an oven. And this oven was terrible. It was completely falling apart,” Brooke said.

“There were no elements, the stones were all smashed. The electrics were going. It was barely safe enough to cook the food in.

“I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I did. I even said to my apprentice ‘if you can bake in this oven, you can bake anywhere’.”

The oven was upgraded, and added to a new dough sheeter and prover – Brooke’s other main priorities – and Glenreagh Bakery was ready to roll.

Beyond wining over the townspeople and travellers with their products, Brooke also decided to focus on creating employment and training opportunities within the bakery.

“There’s not really many job opportunities here. There’s only a general store, Coffs Harbour Hardwoods and a pub in this town, and the next town has a café. But we’re quite busy, because we do everything by hand – there’s plenty of work for people to do here,” Brooke said.

“This helps us support the community that supports us too, and people respond really well to that. There are school kids working with us on the weekends and in the morning. It gives them a good purpose.”

Included in that number are Brooke’s three apprentices, the first of whom showed in the first week of trading.

Brooke said it was important to her to help foster their passion for the industry.


“Obviously I had been an apprentice myself, and I had been inspired by one of my teachers. He just really helped me appreciate the work and get a good strong belief in having a passion for pastry,” Brooke said.

“With this work I ended up travelling and doing competitions like Bake Skills, and winning those took me overseas. I basically wanted to give that back – give the same opportunity and inspiration back to these guys and show them that there’s more out there than working in a bakery in a small town.”

It’s obviously working, as Brooke’s current third year apprentice Lestatt Hammond is going on to represent Australia in WorldSkills in Lyon, France, in September.

Brooke herself trained Lestatt for the first stages of the competition, calling on her experience as a teacher and dedicating extra time each day towards it on top of their daily work.

“Now he’s got to that level he’s got a specialist team to train him, which is great. But it also means I will eventually lose him [at Glenreagh Bakery],” Brooke said.

“But then, you know, this inspires the other apprentices. They help out and we all work together to get ideas. Basically it means we’re all involved in it.

“And the community love it. It’s a little town and now everyone knows that someone born and bred here has been to Melbourne to compete.”

A lot of hard work has been packed into the past two-and-a-half years at Glenreagh Bakery, however Brooke said she and her team were not even close to slowing down.

“We just want to keep everyone excited. We want to keep coming up with new and fresh ideas,” she said.

“This bakery is such an unexpected little find, and the reaction we get a lot of the time is, ‘wow, we weren’t expecting to find a bakery like this in the middle of nowhere’. It’s such a good spot.”

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  1. paul Delaney

    27 February

    Well done Brooke and Lee!
    It’s a great to hear how well your bakery is going . Keep up the hard work and congratulations on training Lestatt to become an award winning apprentice.
    Next time I pass your way I will call in to Glenreagh Bakery to taste your pastries and say hello , It’s been a long time since we worked together.

    Regards Paul Delaney

  2. Michael Baker

    28 February

    Congratulations on your hard work laying off. Do you deliver to Coffs 😆 😂 😆

  3. Michael Baker

    28 February

    Congratulations on your hard work paying off. Do you deliver to Coffs 😆 😂 😆

  4. Doyle Rhiana

    2 March

    We love you and appreciate all that you do for our community. You have invested in glenreagh and it’s amazing. However I’m not fatter than I was lol 😆

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