The Grumpy Baker owner Michael Cthurmer has been running his bakeries in suburban and regional areas for almost 20 years. But he’s feeling comfortable about opening the group’s first CBD spot.
“The customers aren’t that different from the suburbs. We have regulars in town who come every day, just like regular customers who live next door come every day,” he tells Broadsheet.
The real difference this time around is the building itself. On the Elizabeth Street border of Hyde Park, near the Park Street intersection, The Grumpy Baker’s newest location is in a historic bus stop. The whole operation – coffee making, pastry and bread display, and baking – has to fit into a 20-square-metre space. When Broadsheet visits, they’re still ironing out the finer points – such as getting gas connected.
“We’ve had to adapt to the smaller premises,” says Cthurmer. “Creating this was, I think, more of a headache than a big space because the shop was awkward.”
Part of The Grumpy Baker model is to bake items fresh on-site throughout the day. Breads and pastries are prepped off site, but are baked in-house at each location. The small Elizabeth Street bus stop has made that more challenging than usual.
“Cooking on a hot plate is one thing, but baking is really different,” says Cthurmer. “When we get the gas connected, we’ll get a small brick oven. I think we can bake about 40 loaves a day here.”
In addition to more than 10 varieties of bread (including fig and walnut, traditional pumpernickel, organic carrot loaf, and linseed-soy), croissants, muffins, cinnamon buns and cheese sticks are displayed on vertical shelving behind the counter. For savouries, there are handmade pies and sausage rolls, as well as sandwiches to have with your coffee.
The traffic along Elizabeth Street is relentless, and the charming little open-front bus stop allows customers some respite from the bustle. For now there’s one small table inside and a couple along the structure's exterior.
Seating is particularly important for a dish such as shakshuka, which must be served hot in the ramekin it’s baked in, rather than in a takeaway container.
Although Cthurmer is an old hand at opening bakeries, he says the excitement and nerves never wane. “It’s not day-to-day 8am to 5pm in an office, there’s always something different: the shop, the locations, the layouts. There’s always something new, but those little details, that’s the fun of it. Then the manager takes over and runs with it and you start again.”
Now that Elizabeth Street is up and running, he’s turning his mind to the next location, which has just opened in Newcastle. When asked if there’s a limit to how many he can open, he says he doesn’t know, then laughs: “I might have to have more kids to help.”
The Grumpy Baker
98 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
0478 666 267
Mon to Fri 6am–6pm