1493580176413 - Post-quake traffic surge puts Murchison’s Sweet Dreams bakery on the map

Post-quake traffic surge puts Murchison’s Sweet Dreams bakery on the map

 A bakery bringing a taste of France to the tiny town of Murchison has put itself on the map within just four months of opening.

Sweet Dreams owners Richard van den Berg, from the Netherlands, and Isabelle from France, opened the doors of their new endeavour on January 2 – soon after a devastating earthquake closed State Highway. Since then traffic through the town has surged and the bakery has seen the effects.

“We try to close at 3pm but often we close at 1pm or 2pm because we’re all sold out. We sell a couple of hundred products a day.

“Sometimes a couple of buses stop and they clear us out in 10 minutes.”

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Richard said although the increased traffic had helped with setting up the business, he reckoned customers kept coming back because of the high quality French baked goods they sold.

“It’s really quite different, it makes people talk about it and come back. It [keeps getting] busier and busier.

To keep up with the high demand, Richard said they hired French patisserie chef Alizée Cadart about two months ago.

The couple got a good indication of the possibilities for the bakery when they tested the waters in December prior to opening.

One day, Isabelle baked more bread than she needed and decided to put the rest outside on a table to see if anyone wanted to buy it.

“Within two hours we sold everything,” Richard said.

He said the bakery had been open six days a week and everyone was doing long hours.

“We start at 5.30am in the morning, we have the first patisseries at 8.30am and then first bread is at 10am. We only have a small kitchen, it’s two little ovens actually.”

The couple came to New Zealand after spending several years in Malaysia, owning a restaurant in Malaka. 

Richard said worked in Christchurch in construction for a few years to get them residency.

“The moment we got our residency we bought a property in Murchison.”

The idea for the bakery stemmed from New Zealand’s complicated health and safety regulations.

“My wife wanted to bake cookies and sell them on the market but the problem is that with all the regulations in New Zealand it’s actually less work to open up a shop than to try to sell cookies that are made in your home kitchen.

Richard said they initially only wanted to bake sweet goods but the demand for savoury was so high they recently started baking some French savoury pastries. They also added a coffee machine to complete the picture.  

“People keep on telling you ‘why aren’t you in Nelson or Christchurch?’

“We’re working long hours already at the moment and we can’t go everywhere. We like Murchison, it’s a great place to be.”

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