Servicing Roma since 1967
Western Bakeries Pty Ltd trading as Bakearoma is a wholly privately owned local business operating from a manufacturing facility at 73-77 McDowall Street Roma. It provides a retail outlet encompassing a coffee shop and bakery and provides wholesale baked products to the hotel, motel and accommodation camp and retail grocery sectors. It also provides a complete catering solution from morning teas to weddings, provides in flight catering, and operates smoko vans throughout the town of Roma, as well as servicing school tuckshops.
Western Bakeries was formed in 1967 by 22 local businessmen prompted by Mr. Norm Smith the manager of Seafoam Flour Mills, Roma Mill. The Flour mill was on the site currently used by Wards transport beside the railway goods yard in Wyndham Street. The Mill was destroyed by fire in the late 70’s, then rebuilt and re-equipped but only re-opened briefly, for reasons that will be explained later.
One of the two major bakeries in town, Borehams Bakery, situated in Wyndham street was selling out and was in negotiations with the O’Briens of Defiance Milling in Toowoomba. Seafoam was concerned that if the bakery fell into the hands of Defiance, which was their opposition, they would lose the bakery as a customer of the Roma mill.
Norm Smith the manager of the Roma mill got a group of Roma businessmen together to start a Proprietary Limited Company, Western Bakeries Pty Ltd and with Seafoam as a one third partner proceeded to procure the bakery and keep its ownership within the town.
The inaugural Board chairman was Mr. Fleming Henry Orr, later to become mayor of Roma. Joe, as he was affectionately known to all, was a baker by trade. The Board mirrored to a large extent the Board of Maranoa Permanent Building Society another initiative of local businessmen in Roma. Maranoa Permanent Building Society went on to be part of the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society, and subsequently, Suncorp.
This community based spirit exhibited by local businessmen was a great boon to the town. Seafoam Mill brought Mr. Edward Nugent (Ted) to Roma to manage the new venture. He was also a baker by trade, and had been used previously by Seafoam Mills to troubleshoot bakeries under their control. He came with a wealth of experience, and knowledge of the latest processes and machinery. His wife Norma became the company bookkeeper, a position she held for over 20 years.
Over the next two decades the company prospered and purchased bakeries in Wallumbilla, Yuleba, Surat and Injune as they became unviable. The other large plant bakery in Roma, Maranoa Bakery, which operated on the site of Mohrs garage on Northern road, was purchased in 1980 and a Hot Bread shop was opened in 1984 at 63 McDowall Street Roma.
Teds son Robert, was apprenticed in 1975 and went on to be an apprentice of the year and won multiple awards during his indentured term. He began purchasing shares in the company with his wife Donna in 1987. By the end of 1987 the company was under their control and within 12 months was wholly owned by Robert and Donna. The company purchased Cadzows bakery in Miles during this period, and began packing the Buttercup brand as well as its own, as part of a national supply agreement with Woolworths. Western Bakeries became one of only two bakeries accepted by Buttercup to do this and was made an independent member of the Quality Bakers Group.
The bakery continued to operate with the Wyndham street plant bakery and the McDowall street Hot Bread Shop until 1996 employing around 25 people. Due to the flooding of the local market by Multi-National plant bakeries based in Brisbane, the company made the decision to close the now unviable plant bakery, selling the wholesale units to Buttercup Bakeries, and the building was leased to Silly Sollies variety stores. Unfortunately, a large number of staff were made redundant at this time. The Hot Bread shop was extended and focus was shifted to being the premier morning tea and lunch venue for Roma.
The business re-entered the wholesale market by popular demand and soon outgrew its premises. This resulted in the company relocating in late 2010 to-73- 77 McDowall Street, a site four times the size of the 63 McDowall street site. The building was fitted out with a 70 seat café and coffee shop. A new bread plant, commercial kitchen and large freezer and cold-rooms were included. The company now employs over 50 staff, produces a wide and varied range of products, and services customers from Miles to Mitchell, and Injune to St George. Robert and Donnas son Anthony now runs the bakery production and Donna can still be seen at the Coffee Bar. This is the third generation of Nugents in the bakery.
Earlier we mentioned the Roma Seafoam mill being burnt down in the late 70’s, being rebuilt and re-equipped but only re-opening briefly. This was for two main reasons. Firstly, the company had built a new mill at Tennyson in Brisbane following the 1974 floods when the old mill at South Brisbane was inundated. This was a new modern mill, with modern high output machinery and minimal staff requirements. The Roma mill ran at full capacity until the new mill was complete. The new much larger mill once completed had excess capacity at the time.
Secondly, a well-meaning government had introduced a Rail Freight Subsidy on primary produce throughout Queensland. This resulted in Seafoam being able to attract the subsidy when shipping unmilled grain from the west to Brisbane, but having to pay the full cost when shipping processed product from the Roma Mill. These two circumstances combined saw the close of the mill, never to re-open, and another lost manufacturer in the town. The mill used to run 24 hours a day and employed a large number of staff, sending product from Brisbane to Darwin, with local carriers involved, and tinned flour to New Guinea and other island countries.
The Queensland Co-operative Milling Association (QCMA) that owned the Seafoam brand went on to sell out to Allied Mills and then eventually became part of Goodman Fielder. It is recorded that QCMA was the only one of over 50 grower co-operative flour millers that started in Australia that prospered and sold out for a profit, with all others failing along the way.
The Bakery has played a vital and dynamic part in the Roma community since 1967 and with 50 years of service on the horizon, is still looking to new ventures within its core business.