by Elize Strydom
The Bake House Yamba
When Kylie and Matt Peterie realised their stressful work life in Maclean was no longer sustainable, they made the decision to buy a bakery in Yamba. While they knew the new venture would present its own challenges, they didn’t quite anticipate a learning curve so steep. With a little help from their friends and family, the Peteries opened The Bake House Yamba on Coldstream Street just under three years ago.
Up at 4am most days, Matt makes wholesale deliveries before helping out in the shop and tackling the book work. One or two nights a week, he joins his team of bakers to burn the midnight oil. Kylie and the kids – Laura, Jake and Sophia – head out the door at 7:30 each morning and drive to Maclean Public School where Kylie works part-time as a teacher. Once the bell rings it’s on to dancing, rugby, netball and swimming. Kylie says when they get home at 5:30pm, it’s tempting to grab dinner from nearby restaurants The Mexican, Sassafras Yamba or Block Bar and Cafe.
“It’s nice to support your neighbours!” Kylie laughs. “The businesses on Coldstream Street are very friendly and loyal; we look out for each other.”
While the Peteries work hard, they are determined to give their children the experiences they deserve. Matt says they try to fit in multiple long weekends away throughout the year.
“Some owners are superglued to their business and aren’t able to trust anyone else,” Kylie observes. “Thankfully our staff are very supportive; they step up so we can step out.”
Kylie and Matt have nothing but praise for their team, many of whom worked at the bakery before they took over. When the Peteries were learning the ropes and adjusting to their new normal, their staff were patient and encouraging.
“I’ve been working in bakeries since 1998, but throw in deli meats, a salad bar, a coffee machine and book keeping and it’s a completely different story!” says Matt. “Our staff were really good at helping us with the things we had no idea about.”
Retaining their close-knit team was one of the main concerns Kylie and Matt had when the effects of COVID-19 were beginning to impact the Clarence Valley. When restrictions were introduced, the Peteries lost half of their business in one fell swoop.
“We’d been trading as normal and supplying bread to pubs, clubs and caravan parks,” Matt explains.
“The anxiety really hit us the night they all closed,” Kylie adds. “We were very concerned about the virus itself as well as our family and staff.”
“We’ve never seen anything like that in Yamba… or anywhere.” Matt continues. “We didn’t close our doors but sales through the shop started to drop and that was worrying because we’d already lost our wholesale.”
Matt met with his accountant to try to come up with a solution, reminding him that his staff were the priority.
“It’s taken two and a half years to build our team and I didn’t want to lose them,” he says somberly. “We had to make it work somehow.”
With Matt’s mind in a million different places, Kylie was quietly formulating a plan. Thinking Matt wouldn’t go along with it, she hesitantly suggested offering home deliveries and take-home meals for Yamba customers. To Kylie’s delight, Matt was on board with the idea. Deliveries began and quickly expanded to include Maclean and surrounding areas.
“When you want your business to go off in a new direction you usually spend months considering all the possibilities,” Kylie laughs. “But we had to do it in days!”
The Peteries experienced the satisfaction of assisting their community with a valuable service while doing what was necessary to keep their business afloat.
“Matt did every delivery and made sure he wasn’t in anyone’s space,” Kylie says. “We had a chef prepare the take-home meals and tried to keep prices low.”
She says they were happy to help those in need and received nothing but positive feedback. Many families were grateful to have a home-made meal on the table during a stressful time. Reflecting on the last few months, Kylie and Matt are cautiously optimistic about the future of their business and their town.
“If someone told me a few months ago that a virus would shut down the world I would have laughed at them,” Matt says. “To see our busy street empty was quite eerie.”
“People are definitely out and about again,” Kylie offers. “It’s comforting to know things are moving towards normal but we’re taking it one day at a time.”
There’s no doubt the unexpected challenges presented by COVID-19 have been difficult to overcome, but the resilience and strength of Matt, Kylie and their friendly team meant the Bake House Yamba was able to weather the storm and continue to serve the community. Their delicious smoky BBQ pork pies, gourmet toasties, pizza pockets and sweet treats aren’t going anywhere!