Three years ago this August a couple of relative new comers to the Clare Valley decided they’d embark on a new venture. One totally removed from the wine industry they’d both been involved with for several years but, a familiar one nonetheless.
Enter, Chris (Harry) & Amanda Harris, and the making of Clare Rise Bakery 1895. I sat down with this unassuming couple for a quiet chat on their front verandah after a busy Easter weekend, over a glass of wine funnily enough, and talked all things baking and where to from here. Here’s what they had to say about the rise and rise of the Clare Rise Bakery 1895
SCV – Thanks guys for letting me barge on in and intrude on your downtime, I’ve just got a few questions so let’s start with the most obvious; What made you decide to open a bakery in Clare?
CRB – We saw a need in Clare for an authentic bakery, one that baked on site and used local produce where possible. After much consideration and deliberation we decided to take the plunge from the (relative) security of working for someone else and establish our own business.
SCV – You both worked in a bakery some years ago, was that the inspiration for your decision?
CRB – Yes, there seemed to be a gap in the market and with our experience from both working in a bakery at Bordertown, we were confident we could provide fresh-baked goods and establish our own business. Myself (Harry) as the baker and, Amanda running front of shop.
SCV – Did you envisage it would be this successful so quickly?
CRB – We were hopeful but it has really taken off and we are supplying so much wholesale now as well as the shop, we really are pleased at just how popular our product has become in such a short time.
SCV – It’s not quite 3 years since you opened the doors, what have you learned the most since being back in the bakery business?
CRB – Baking and, providing food for public consumption, has changed significantly. People’s dietary requirements and expectations about the food they consume has changed quite a bit. Gluten free products certainly play a major part in today’s food supply. Consumer’s eating habits have changed whereby a lot of people want to sit and eat good quality food instead of [the] ‘good old days’ of grabbing a pie in a bag with sauce. Don’t get me wrong, people still love a pie in a bag, especially the tradies, but people are more educated about food and how it’s prepared and cooked these days, so they know what they can expect. And that’s great because it keeps you on your toes about what you’re putting out there.
SCV – So has your style of baking changed?
CRB – Yes, definitely. We were advised to have a set menu and not deviate from that but you can’t go into business without being open to being flexible. The days of the french stick and basic dinner roll have well and truly gone. We now have local caterers advising us of their menu for a function and asking us for suggestions as to what we can provide that will suit. Slider rolls for example have been very popular of late, particularly at events like Clare Gourmet. And back when i was baking before just about everything that came out of the oven was given a brush of vegetable oil. You can’t do that now. The need to diversify is really important now and we need to listen to our customers. Whether they are an individual consumer walking through the door for the first time or a caterer wanting 500+ units for a wedding, our ability to listen and be flexible is certainly going in our favour.
SCV – Do you have a favourite thing to bake, Harry?
CRB – Umm, oh gee. (Ponders) I guess it would have to be the Plugger Pie.
SCV – Why’s that?
CRB – Well, it ticks all the boxes for flavours and it’s the pie of pies for the “blokey bloke”. I reckon it’s great.
SCV – You’ve got me intrigued now, i might have to try one.
CRB – Yep, they’re great, you’d enjoy it. I also enjoy cooking with seasonal produce like the quandong or sour cherry. I’ve been approached by local growers with unique produce which is great, it gives me ideas for different things to try. The thing with seasonal produce is, you can try something new but because they aren’t on the menu all the time it’s not a huge burden to the workload.
SCV – We had some of your delicious hot cross buns at work, just how many did you make this year?
CRB – From the few weeks leading up to Easter and including Easter weekend, I made more than 400 dozen. It was absolutely crazy this year, to keep up the supply for demand was a big challenge.
SCV – Is it just you baking?
CRB – No, I have myself and a fulltime baker and an apprentice baker and we are supported by four staff managing shop front.
SCV – The wholesale side of things is really taking off. I mean, that’s the side of the business people don’t see but it’s grown a fair bit, hasn’t it?
CRB – Wholesale really is growing at a rapid rate. We supply to caterers for weddings & functions, and to restaurants and events like Blenheim & Clare Gourmet. We are now supplying 3 days a week to the Emporium Bakehouse at Riverton who are selling out before we get back there. That’s like operating a second bakery, the demand is that huge. We also supply the Brinkworth store and have a lot of people from further North like, Jamestown who come in on a regular basis. We’re at the point now where we have to make some careful decisions about keeping up the quality and supply for the demand but it’s an exciting time and we are loving it.
SCV – So you’re still enjoying it? Running your own business, I mean?
CRB – (Resounding) Yes!
SCV – Ok, one last question; When the (flour) dust has settled and years from now when you’re looking to retire, what would you want your legacy to be?
CRB – For Clare to always have a bakery that bakes on site and is fresh daily using local produce. That’s what I want for myself while it’s my business but also for many years to come for Clare and the Clare Valley region.
SCV – Good call. Thanks, ‘Harrys’. See you soon for a plugger pie 🙂
Clare Rise Bakery 1895 is located at 12 Main North Road, Clare, just South of the Clare township adjacent the caravan park. They are open 5&1/2 days a week during normal trading times can be contacted on 8842 1805 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org