Chance to buy bakery too good to pass up

When one door closes, another one opens.

After more than 25 years, The Friday Shop in Dunedin, which opened only on Fridays, closed recently when owner and former Michelin-star chef Jim Byars retired.

Gilbert’s Fine Foods owner Kevin and Esther Gilbert have purchased the bakery, expanding their existing operation.

The couple started their business in 2006 after purchasing Dunedin’s Charlotte Bakery and now operate from South Dunedin supplying their own bakery and other cafes.

Expanding was something Mr Gilbert wanted to do for a long time and it was a matter of "right time and right questions asked", he said.

Gilbert's Fine Foods owners Kevin and Esther Gilbert outside their new bakery in Roslyn, Dunedin....
Gilbert's Fine Foods owners Kevin and Esther Gilbert outside their new bakery in Roslyn, Dunedin. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN

Mr Byars contacted the couple about selling some of his products and the conversation quickly changed to whether they were interested in taking the business over.

"It would have been a shame to see his legacy fall flat and we were lucky enough to step in," Mr Gilbert said.

It was the fastest turnaround the couple had made on a major decision in their 16 years in business, taking just three weeks from signing the deal to opening.

"It was one of the biggest decisions we’ve made, definitely the fastest, but also the easiest," Mr Gilbert said.

They considered the impacts of Covid-19 and the rising costs of doing business but they were confident they could make it work.

"There is that risk, I guess ... but, when something like this falls on your lap, it’s very hard to brush it off."

Since opening nearly two weeks ago, Mr Gilbert had been spending his time getting accustomed to the new kitchen.

"Every bakery has its own personality ... the oven and I are only just starting to get along now," he said, laughing.

Given The Friday Shop’s popularity, the couple admitted there were high expectations to live up to.

Mr Gilbert had a "massive amount of respect" for Mr Byars and what he had achieved.

"When I’m out the back here making stuff, I do have this little tension that I know I’m going to be measured for a while," he said.

Mrs Gilbert said it was important to them to honour Mr Byars’ legacy while also adding their own twist to it.

"We are not Jim, we aren’t trying to be Jim, but we are going to forge our own path from here on in," she said.

Mr and Mrs Gilbert were grateful for the support they had received from the Roslyn community since they opened.

"They’ve welcomed us with open arms and we couldn’t be more thankful," Mrs Gilbert said.