New South Wales’ Quinty’s Cakes and Bakehouse scratch-makes sourdough product while enjoying the country lifestyle.
Seven years ago Paul and Tanya Gillanders had an education problem. Having moved from Sydney to Uranquinty, population 1500, and having launched a sourdough bakery, they found no-one understood their product. Their sourdough takes more than three days to ferment, has no yeast and is “pure sour”. Nearly a decade later, the tide has turned and their sourdough has cemented its place in the community.
“Now it’s taken off a lot, with the cooking shows, you know, and it’s educational, people just want to know what’s in their food. Not all the 202 preservatives that make your child have learning difficulties… There’s just a lot of issues, I think, health wise, and they’re just wanting to educate themselves and it’s taken off quite nicely,” business co-owner Tanya says.
The business sells breads such as parmesan, herb and carmerlised onion as well as cheesecakes, crumbles and poached seasonal fruits.
“I get bored easy so I change things. I think if I get bored then the customer gets bored. We reinvent ourselves a lot. We launched mousses and a gourmet line of cakes. So we do a lot of things,” Tanya says.
In 2008 Paul and Tanya opened their second business in Wagga Wagga, 15km from their first store. Both 36 years old, the pair hadn’t originaly planned on becoming business partners.
“When I wanted to set-up a business I wanted to do it by myself, I hadn’t planned to include Paul in it, but when we started to put our heads together it started to grow bigger than just the café. I thought, well you can’t really do it alone. And we did baking together and he learnt it,” Tanya says.
A lack of customer turnover has meant they have had to focus on making an impact with their product quality and win the locals over.
“I reckon we have a lot more loyal customers because there are people that move (here) that don’t turnover as much as the city. So I think in saying that that’s why you have to change a little bit more often than the city, where the customers change and turnover, where in the country they don’t, they’re here to stay. You know, for 15 years they live down the road and they’re here to stay,” Tanya says.
“So, I just think word gets around that you’re no good, word gets around pretty fast.”
Tanya says she started work in a “normal” Australian bakery where she made premix slices and apple turnovers. She then extended her skills and went to Sydney and refined them through restaurant work with fresh produce. It was here that she became fascinated by sourdough. Paul, a New Zealender, is a carpenter by trade but picked up his baking skills on the run.
Germany would become an integral part of the business. Tanya’s father is German and the pair travelled there in order to gain insight into sourdough production. A chance meeting with a customer off the streets brought them even more German experience.
“We actually met a guy from Berlin (at our shop) and he said, ‘This place is beautiful, if you ever want to, come across and bake with us over in Berlin’ and I said, ‘Are you honestly saying there is an opportunity? Because if there is I will take it’ and yeah, he was genuine and two years later we did it.”
Spending nine days at Berlin’s Bakerman, Paul learnt the bread trade while Tanya did the pastry for an equal mixing of pastry and the bread.
“Paul does all the breads here now. I focus on the marketing, employment and pastry. He focuses on the bread, the production and the pies, and the sort of running of the business.”
The business has provided artisan bread classes for more than six years. Tanya says it’s important to allow customers to work inside the bakery so that they can become “part owners” in it.
“I love teaching kids stuff. People wonder, ‘why aren’t there more chefs?’ Well you don’t open your workplace, that’s why. So, people that love cooking will do it, given the opportunity to have the experience. It really creates a loyal base because those people own your business because they’ve been in it with you,” she says.
Quinty will remain a small business without a wholesale side in order to maintain its product quality.
“What’s the money in wholesaling? They want you to drop it 50 per cent, they want you to deliver it free, if it doesn’t sell for them they want you to actually carry credit and they want you to have a three-month account. How can any business do that? It’s not something I’m interested in, we work hard enough.
“I just want to be friends with our customers and let them have a retail experience and try new things rather than pumping out the production and not having anything new.”
Moving out of the city into the country and launching a business has been hard work for the Gillanders, but they now enjoy a balanced lifestyle.
“It’s definitely not given to you. I would say in a sentence we eat, drink, live bakery. And because of that it is draining on us. We actually close for the month of Janaury to refuel ourselves and that’s just been a great reward, that’s when we do our travelling, we do our training and that’s when we have a break ourselves. I never want to be angry to serve a customer. We’re not built like robots and I think people forget that.”