Craig and I, Lachie, propose to open Big Loaf Bakery in North Fremantle. This website will function to serve the interested community with information and titbits as we are getting ready to open.
Who are we?
We are two young chefs, bakers and business people from the Fremantle area. We met in 2012 while we were both working at the Fremantle Arts Centre. Craig lives in Beaconsfield, likes going out to eat, reading cookbooks, and going to the beach. Craig has two children, Ava and George, aged 3 and 1. I live in Cottesloe and outside of work, I like to drink wine, play my piano (very badly), work on and ride my old BMW motorcycle and read. I have a 7 year old son named Monty who goes to North Fremantle Primary school.
In late 2015, we formed a catering company called Cowboy Catering. We did private dinners, canapé parties and offered in-house chef services primarily in the Western Suburbs and Fremantle areas. We made everything ourselves, including the bread, pickles, small-goods, butter, and a lot of our equipment too. We had no money and couldn’t get any credit with our suppliers so we had to pay for everything upfront.
Cowboy Catering was popular and busy, but we didn’t actually make a huge profit. Most of the cash that came in went straight back out again to buy more trays and fridges. However, we did learn a lot. We learned about what running your own business is actually like and we learnt about each other. When we would be in the kitchen together prepping or waiting around at functions (anyone who has done catering before will know that there is LOTS of waiting involved), we got to spend hours talking about everything – from Eastern European architecture to whether dogs sweat (apparently they pant for this), but mostly we talked about our primary passion – food.
We discussed what we thought a good food business should be. What would it sell? How much should it charge? Is curly parsley better than flat leaf? What businesses are doing things right? Who’s doing it wrong? How would it make money? What would it look and feel like? How it would treat its staff? As two motivated chefs we knew some things about food and some things about business and it was through these discussions that we were able to crystallise our thinking. We found that we had a lot of views in common about both what we felt was wrong with the industry and what people actually wanted from a food seller.
Craig and I had actually looked at businesses before independently of each other but at the time neither of us had the cash or experience to actually do anything about it. I remember looking at a cafe in central Freo that was for sale in 2011 and telling myself that it was time to write a business plan. Great idea – but how do you actually do that? I sat in my home office and stared at the blank screen and a P&L statement (that I couldn’t understand) for at least 30 minutes before I decided that I should go and play my piano.
We realised that while our food was OK we needed to educate ourselves financially and about business in general – so we did. We gradually up-skilled ourselves to the point that we were able to take things to the next level, so we formed a company with a silly name: Do A Dinner Pty Ltd
North Street Store
We took over what was then called ‘Chez Frederic Gourmet Food To Go’ in September 2017. It arrived in our lap as a vacant possession at the right time. The building was built in 1945 as a corner store and had been operated as various other food businesses. We had actually looked at it one year before and so when it became available as a vacant possession with a new lease we were ready. It was run down, absolutely filthy, and painted garishly orange. When we scraped back 30 years of different business names from the facade, we found the original ‘North Street Store’ type etched into the zinc on the awning. This was a sign and it informed the identity of our future business.
We had grand ideas about bringing the community together and recreating not just the look of an old corner store but also the vibe, the feeling. We thought that in the modern, online and decentralised world we all live in it would be nice to have a shop that is a break from all of that. North Street Store is visceral, physical and human. It’s extremely real. Food and drink are universal needs and bread is still a staple. Corner stores used to be a meeting place for the communities they serviced and there are only a few that are hanging on and continuing to fulfil this need.
At NSS we offer great value things to eat and drink in a casual and unpretentious environment. The design and fit out of the shop is straight out of the 1940s and we pride ourselves on offering not just generosity and old fashioned service but old fashioned prices too. Offering value for money and a quality product are at the forefront of our business. Bakers are, and have always been servants. We produce daily products for everyday people.
Award winning bread from our bakery*;
Bakery products like cake, pastries, sausage rolls and pies;
Ready to eat foods like our famous continental rolls, fresh daily salads and popular ‘last nights dinner’ boxes for $10
Delicious coffee and milkshakes
A range of basic provisions, like butter (to go on your bread!), milk, eggs, olive oil (farm direct)
Short order cooking for breakfast and lunch, offering basic but delicious things, mostly on bread, like bacon baguettes
Weeknights we do 3 dinner options, which change every day and are also cooked to order. Typically these dishes are either $17 or $21 and they are always homestyle, delicious and freshly made from scratch onsite.
In short, we opened the shop that we wanted to go to. It’s a fun place to be in and a fun place to go to and it’s full of delicious things.
NSS opened quietly in February 2018 and since then we have become increasingly popular for all of the things mentioned above. Our sales are pretty much an even split across all the areas, which shows us that we are doing stuff that people want. We feel that we have achieved the community connection we set out to. Most of our customers are locals, many of them walk or ride to us and we have gotten to know them. On any given morning it’s an idyllic scene at NSS. You’ll find a business man having a coffee before work alongside a school child buying a roll for lunch, next to a mother buying bread, butter and eggs for the family breakfast. People see their neighbours at our shop and we have become a social hub for the area. We donate to the school and the surf-club and have catered for birthdays, weddings and wakes for so many members of the community. In the nearly two years that we have been open, we have grown out of our bakery (now moved to South Freo) and created over 30 jobs, many of which are filled by locals.
At the Royal Show this year we won gold medals for all the bread we entered and took out the Champion Loaf (for our baguette) and the Tony Noonan Award for the most successful bakery in show. *Now we can say that our bread is award winning!
It hasn’t been easy and running your own business is scary. Craig and I still wake up in the middle of the night with worries and we still work 80 hours a week, but we are extremely proud of what we do and of what we have created here. We wouldn’t change it for anything.
In North Freo we see a similar need for a neighbourhood store. Talking to a few residents at school one day, they all said that their number one desire for the area was a shop, and their number two desire was a Chinese restaurant. There is a great mix of diverse and quality businesses in the Queen Victoria St area but none who sell daily staples. We’re not qualified to open a Chinese restaurant but we do know about running a shop and it became apparent that there was an opportunity for us to open a second store. We are not franchising NSS – we will open a different business. What is unique about NSS is that it’s unique – it can’t be transported and it can’t be replicated because it’s a unique mix of influences from the staff, but the spirit and intent of our company can.
The spirit is the spirit of service, the ethos of quality and serving the community. We are here to provide what the people need. In North Freo this means that our business will need to have more retail and more provisions. North Fremantle is a different area with different needs and the site we have leased has different bones and a different history.
We are going to turn the panel shop and second hand shop into a bakery and store. The second hand shop is technically a store already, but it’s different to the type we would like to run.
We want to sell all of the above listed things we sell at NSS, and further develop the ‘provisions’ part of our business to include even more staples. We want to create the market feeling found in European delis and corner stores like NSS, with the addition of kitchen and fresh fruit, veg and staple goods.
To do this change of use we have engaged Patrick Miller from Finespun Architecture, who has, among other things, designed Propeller, Mrs Browns AND Flipside. He gets the area and he understands our (sometimes strange) design aesthetic.
We first started looking at the site in January 2019 and signed a lease in July 2019. Jules, the building’s owner and now retired proprietor had worked there since the building was built in the 60s. Amazing to think that we will be continuing his legacy in a completely different industry.
We lodged our DA in August and following community consultation, made a few variations to our initial plans.
The works stated in the change of use DA are minimal. We prefer to keep things simple and use what we have. Most of the detail is about the change of use stuff – opening hours, staff on site, noise management etc.
Happily, over 70% of the responses were positive.
Some of the positives, as summarised by the City in their report were:
The business will enhance community cohesion.
The business will provide services for the North Fremantle town centre that are
not otherwise provided in the immediate area.
Submitters supported the proposed business on the basis of their experience
with another location run by the same operators.
The business was considered to be in keeping with the character of the North Fremantle town centre.
The business would attract visitors from across Perth to visit North Fremantle.
The business operating on a short-stay model for customers was supported in consideration of the existing car parking availability issues in North Fremantle.
The proposed development will enhance a site in the North Fremantle town centre.
There were also 14 submissions expressing concern, to which we duly responded. We made it to the Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday the 6th of November and the officer’s recommendation was that our approval should be endorsed. The full report is available to download below, as are our plans and our DA as it was submitted.
9 people got up to speak against our proposal at the meeting and the overall outcome was that the matter was deferred to the full council meeting on November 27th, which at the time of writing this (Thursday 21) is next Wednesday!
We are very excited at the prospect of this first stage coming to a close. We have our shovels ready to get cracking!
Following the Planning Committee meeting a letter was distributed by some residents living close to our site, expressing some concerns about us moving in and calling on the community to mobilise to block it. This is disappointing, but not unexpected. We understand that you can’t please everyone.
What’s more disappointing is that the letter contains some information that is simply not correct and some statements that are slanderous.
Everyone is entitled to speak their mind and we don’t expect everyone to love us but we felt two things in relation to this:
1. That we have to respond and set the record straight; and
2. That we need to engage the community better because there is clearly a misunderstanding. Had we done this from the start we may not have found ourselves in this situation but we are the first to admit that we are always learning.
In relation to point 1 above, to set the record straight please see the letter in question below with our comments in green and have conducted our own letter drop to publicise this. UPDATE 28 November – Letter removed. We have spoken to these residents following the meeting yesterday.
In relation to point 2 – welcome to our blog! We will be sharing as much as we can with all of you who are interested as we progress through this journey. We don’t have that much time to write things but we will make the time because it’s important to share and it’s clearly something we need to work on. Also, it will be interesting to look back in the future at what happened at a certain time in our lives – this is the start of our archive program.
We agreed from the start that we wanted to do business in a way that we could be proud of. This means being honest and transparent. We want to act with integrity and be able to hold our heads high, knowing that we have done the right thing.
In the spirit of this, our personal phone numbers and email addresses are listed below and there is a contact form that goes directly to us. If you would like to be kept in the loop regarding this development then please send an email and we will alert you to the goings on.