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On the street to success: David Winter

On the street to success: David Winter

From Brisbane to Melbourne, David Winter has made an indelible mark on the Australian baking industry in a number of capacities. His Mont Albert bakery Bread Street is approaching its 20th birthday, and in that time it has quite literally blown away the local competition.

Aside from a Bakers Delight about four kilometres away, there are no longer any other bakeries, either franchise or independent, in the area surrounding Bread Street. As David explains, this is because the bread they make is the kind people come out of their way for.

“The bread we make lasts for four or five days—as bread, not as toast—and sourdoughs will last two weeks, easily, he says.

“It’s a lost art now. We do a huge range of bread including sourdough, which I learnt in 1984 from John Downe, who was the godfather of sourdough in Australia. We do boiled bagels, we do Turkish… we did some of the very first ciabatta.”

 

David’s baking story is a long one, and it’s clear he’s found the recipe for success through experience, trial and error, learning from others, and a dose of good old-fashioned hard work and common sense.

Baking isn’t just a job for David, it’s a passion. The proof lies in the unused economics degree (and partially completed law degree) he gained from Monash University before “stumbling” into baking, as he says, in 1977.

“With my economics degree I could have easily ended up in the city and whatever, but I actually love baking,” David says.

As it happened, David was involved in a not-for-profit organisation that had opened a school in Melbourne. To fund the school, one of the organisation’s members, Roger Gillespie—who would later found Bakers Delight—had set up a chain of bakeries.

“Roger was my mentor; he suggested I join the bakeries,” David explains.

“I baked for 20 months then I took over the company, and in 1980 I started franchising.”

At the time, the name of the company was Old Style Bread Centre and they had locations in Melbourne, Brisbane, Warwick and Toowoomba. In 1984, the company would become Brumby’s.

At the helm, David amassed 65 bakeries under the franchise within three years, all of them successful, which he says comes down to one formula—the one Bread Street is built on—and that is just bread.

“The original Old Style Bread Centre had five bakeries before we started franchising,” he says.

“Two of the bakeries made all of the money, and they specialised in bread. We used to make all the pies and whatever in one bakery and distribute it around, but those two bakeries only made bread and they made 90 per cent of our profit.”

Simplicity is another motivator behind the bread-only philosophy. In fact, David says he lost his first marriage to work—or overwork—and was determined not to make that mistake again.

“This time around, I thought ‘Okay, I’m gonna be sensible about it’, so when I go home, I just leave it all. I don’t take anything with me and I don’t have to worry about it,” he says.

In between Old Style Bread Centre (later Brumbys) and Bread Street, David gathered business experience—both through his own businesses and working with and consulting for other bakeries.

“When [Brumbys] went public I got out, and I set up the first sidewalk café in Brisbane—Le Scoops in Paddington—then I started the Original Bagel Company, which was the largest of the small wholesale bakeries in Queensland,” he says.

“I came to Melbourne in 1996 and worked for four years corporately at Bakers Delight, and then I started Bread Street, in 2002. It had been a bakery [previously], but the place was empty when I took it over and we gutted it and started again.”

Baking is one passion, but David is also heavily involved in the community in many ways. Despite never spending a cent on advertising, everyone knows Bread Street because they supply free product to all the schools and clubs for their fundraisers and sausage sizzles.

In April 2020, in response to the pandemic, David started a Meal on Wheels service. With the support of volunteers cooking at home and delivering in private vehicles, they were able to provide 400 meals each week to elderly citizens and struggling international students isolating in their homes across Whitehorse and much of Boroondara council areas. Funded largely by Bread Street, over 9,500 meals were delivered to 300 clients by 130 volunteers at a cost of $90,000.

David was awarded the City of Whitehorse Citizen of the Year on Australia Day, 2021 for his mammoth efforts, and received his second Chisolm Award in March, 2021.

 
Left: Whitehorse City Councillor for Cootamundra, Andrew Monroe, on the left at the Civic Awards in 2021 (Photo: Whitehorse City Council) and right: David with his award outside Bread Street (Photo: Chris Gray)

“The awards are a reflection of the fantastic staff at Bread Street who have supported the voluntary work of my wife, Bev, and I,” he says.

He also does a lot of work with the disability sector, both by being on the board of Alkira, a drop-in and residential disability support service at Box Hill, and also through employing people with disabilities. One employee, who has down syndrome, has worked for David for 13 years, and another, who has autism, has been at Bread Street for six years.

These employment durations aren’t unusual at Bread Street either, with many reaching the point of long-service leave eligibility.

“My staff stay with me,” David says.

“They start at 15 years old, a lot of them, and end up going to 23 or whatever, when they go off to start their careers after finishing uni.

“We pay full penalty wages, everything, and always have from day one. We’re simply more efficient than everybody, so we do it with less staff and we pay them properly—our wages are a little bit higher, but as a result of it, we have very stable staff.”

The business also enjoys a close relationship with the Rotary Club of Mont Albert & Surrey Hills (MASH) in fundraising activities, including a monthly soup kitchen.

“We are a small, energetic group who ignore old-fashioned protocols often associated with Rotary, have an equal number of males and females and roll up our sleeves to get things done,” David says.

Now, he says the business is in a rare state now where trading is going well, and the bakery runs smoothly with him only needing to go in a couple of times a week from his home at Metung, about four hours away.

Relaxing a bit more these days, just the day before our interview, David said he and his wife had been sailing.

“It was a lovely day. We had to get dog food, so we thought we’d sail down to Lakes Entrance instead of driving and go and have lunch with friends along the way,” he laughs.


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