Scroll through TripAdvisor reviews of Barnett’s Bakery in Crescent Head and you’ll see why the place has become an institution. One review reads, “Barnett’s Bakery is definitely the most iconic thing in Crescent Head”, while another gushes, “year after year we visit this bakery in Crescent Head and it is consistently fabulous”. What does it take for a humble village bakery to attract such a passionate following?
According to co-owner Rae Barnett, it’s a winning combination of five generations of baking expertise and the simple fact that the Barnetts are “people people” who love chatting to customers and working with one other in the family business.
The story of Barnett’s Bakery began in Macklesfield, South Australia, in 1934, where Frank Barnett’s grandfather, Jack, trained as a baker and passed his knowledge on to three of his 12 children. At the age of 15, Frank Barnett learned the trade from his father, Kevin, before meeting his wife Rae. In 1971, the couple opened a bakery in Bordertown, SA, when their son Mark was six months old, then sold it and spent the next few years honing their business experience. They managed hotels and bakeries from Adelaide to Bundaberg, adding children Adam and Penny to their family along the way.
Frank returned to his roots in 1993 and was working in a Gold Coast bakery when he happened to see a newspaper clipping of a shop for sale in a little village called Crescent Head. The couple’s son, Adam, was learning the trade, and they recognised an opportunity when they saw one.
“We knew it was time for Frank and Adam to go out on their own,” Rae says. “So, we drove down, bought the business and opened in 1996. We moved in above the bakery and got to work, eventually buying the seafood takeaway next door which we turned into a café.”
“There were challenges at first; the machinery wasn’t good, and Crescent Head was much quieter back then. We started off with three bakers, now we have six, and 22 permanent staff altogether.”
Frank’s traditional family recipes and attention to quality proved a hit, and visitors began to stop into Crescent Head just to visit Barnett’s Bakery. Grandson Lachie joined as a baker, and the rave reviews continued to flow when the bakery moved to a bigger premises beside the butcher shop in 2010. According to Rae, Barnetts’ recipe for success lies in a combination of consistency and innovation.
“Frank bought his father’s recipes with him when he started his bakery, so our products are very traditional and high quality,” she says. “Adam is more creative and likes to try new things. It’s a great combination that really works.”
“We’re lucky because we all get along really well. We’ve got Adam and Lachie working as bakers, and our daughter, Penny, Adam’s wife, Mel, and granddaughter, Phoebe all working in the bakery. Everyone in our family has the same work ethic and we really like people.”
While Rae and Frank live in Kempsey, they enjoy being part of the laid-back community of Crescent Head through their business.
“We didn’t intend to stay that long in Crescent Head, but it’s been 23 years and we’re not going anywhere!” Rae laughs. “We love Crescent Head, especially when visitors who have been coming on holidays for years pop in to say hello. Some of them feel like family – there’s people who have been coming to visit for 20 years!”