Bakery’s new owner leads with positive approach

The team at Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore have been heartened by the local support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

TAKING over a business is a stressful endeavour at the best of times, but in the middle of a pandemic it has the potential to be a nightmare.

However, Greg Stevenson, the new owner of Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore and Wandong, has taken such a challenge in his stride.

Mr Stevenson took over the business on April 3, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up in Australia.

Since then, Mitchell Shire has spent most of its time under varying degrees of lockdown restrictions, leaving business owners scrambling to remain viable.

Mr Stevenson said Kemp’s had felt the impact of the most recent round of lockdowns, but was committed to remaining open for locals.

“We’re coping fine, it’s just so up and down at the moment,” he said.

“The business started to improve and then with the second wave it has dropped dramatically.

“We’re having to adjust staffing levels and adjust the production side so we don’t have a lot of waste, but it’s very hard to predict – you just don’t know how many people are going to come through the door each day.

“We’ve had a 40 to 50 per cent drop off at Kilmore since stage three has happened.”

Mr Stevenson said with competition from Kilmore’s other bakeries, as well as other takeaway food stores and chains such as McDonald’s and KFC, there was not enough money to go around.

“Kilmore relies on people coming from outside of town, and they’re not allowed to,” he said.

“It’s a good thing because it means people are adhering to the rules, but not good for business.

“There’s a lot of competition but only 10,000 people living here. I’ve been talking to some people who are even afraid to come from Wallan to Kilmore because they’re afraid they might get in trouble.”

Despite the competition, Mr Stevenson said his business had been making ends meet.

“We’ve been advertising different types of specials and changing things around, understanding that people are going to be at home now and not going to work,” he said.

“We’re offering things that people might be able to take home, so instead of making dinner or lunch, they can get something pre-done.

“We’ve kept the opening hours the same because you do get some people who knock off work who are after something, so you still want to be open for them.”

Mr Stevenson said the support from Kilmore and Wandong residents had been superb.

“We get great support from locals,” he said.

“We’ve got some locals who haven’t visited the bakery in a while who have come back, which has been really nice to see.

“Supporting local businesses is important, because whether it’s the guitar shop or the florists, locals are employing local people and we’re trying to keep our doors open and keep those people in jobs.

“If locals continue to support locals, it’s appreciated not just by the people who own the businesses, but the staff who work there.”

Mr Stevenson said he was using the quieter period during the pandemic to make improvements to both the Kilmore and Wandong stores.

“We’re excited to run the business when things get back to normal, because we’ve only operated it under virus situations,” he said.

“We’re talking to the local Carpet Court about replacing the flooring. When the virus is over, we’ll be ready for it.

“We’re looking forward to being able to support the town and the sporting clubs when things reopen.

“We’ll be supporting them when they get up and running again, and we want to thank the locals for continuing to support us.”