When Yvette and Oliver Cooke bought the popular Fredo Pies in August 2014 they hit the ground running. The couple purchased the well-known brand aware that the Frederickton bypass would soon cut off the traffic flow that Fredo Pies had historically relied on – a gamble that has since proven its worth.
The tiny town of Frederickton is a long way from the corporate lives Yvette and Oliver lived in Sydney before they bought the business. Yvette was a television producer and Oliver worked as a corporate advisor, two occupations that, though different from running a pie shop, gifted the couple with the skills and confidence to build upon the established Fredo Pies business.
“From the beginning, we understood that we’d need to diversify the business whilst also respecting its history,” Yvette says. “The brand is entrenched in people’s hearts and minds. Grown men and women will drop by and speak quite passionately about how they used to stop in for a pie when they were kids. When we opened the store back up there was a line-up out the door.”
Shortly after relocating to South West Rocks, self-confessed foodies Yvette and Oliver (who now have a two-year-old daughter) rolled up their sleeves and got to work systematically overhauling every aspect of the business – beginning with the pies.
“We focused on perfecting one pie at a time – getting the pastry just right, perfecting the meat and gravy ratio, everything!” Yvette says. “Part of the process was downsizing the variety of pies to focus on quality over quantity. Eighteen months after we bought the business, we were finally happy with them.”
The couple then turned their attention to creating a family-friendly café to attract a local clientele, refurbishing the shop and building displays to promote local food producers and artists.
As part of their long-term strategy, Yvette and Oliver have several arms to their business, including the establishment of a Fredo Pies store at the Puma Service Centre, South Kempsey.
“We knew we had a point of difference, in that a lot of the fast food outlets at the service centre are ticketed, whereas at our store, people can just walk right up and buy a pie,” Yvette says. “It’s actually faster than fast food, and it’s all made fresh that day.”
Another successful innovation has been the Fredo Food Van, which offers barista coffee and light meals at sporting grounds, festivals and events. The venture has proven so popular that Fredo Pies now offers catering for weddings.
“We’ve done a few wedding after-parties, and the response has been great,” Yvette says. “Often, all people want at that stage of the night is a good coffee and a pie, or some healthy salads. We don’t need power and require few employees so it’s a win win for us and the customers.”
After all the hard work of re-establishing the business on their own, Yvette says the couple are now happily the position to delegate the management of the business to new general manager Sarah Day, who grew up locally in Dondingalong before moving to Brisbane to run a busy CBD café. Sarah and her partner recently returned to the Macleay Valley to raise a family.
“Sarah has bought some exceptional skills that have allowed Oliver and I to grow the business,” says Yvette. “She’s launched the café food and been integral in transitioning the highway pie shop into a comfortable and atmospheric café with new and exciting menu offers.”
According to Yvette, the business’ success so far has been aided by the gentrification that has occurred in Frederickton as a result of the bypass.
“In the time since we moved here, there’s been a big change in Frederickton,” she says. “People are now moving here from places like Canberra and Sydney because it’s affordable, beautiful and close to amenities.”
Fredo Pies is also likely to benefit from the construction of the Macleay Valley Village, a large over 55’s retirement complex that will considerably widen the business’ potential market.
The future of Fredo Pies looks promising, and Yvette is optimistic about the business’ potential whilst acknowledging the hard work ahead.
“We’ve battled many problems to keep this business going after the bypass and it’s been four years of working seven days a week with a young family. We’re still working hard and look forward to enjoying some work/life balance soon!”
For further information follow the link to the Fredo Pies page