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EXPANSION: Husband and wife Trefor and Sarah Thomas started Lawley\'s Bakery five years ago and have just opened their seventh store, in Shenton Park.

Lawley’s expands from its base

The inevitable Sunday morning queue outside Lawley's Bakery on Beaufort Street would give anyone the impression that the low-key business has been part of the local retail landscape for decades.

But what has become an institution for Mount Lawley locals was only started five years ago by pastry chef Trefor Thomas and his wife Sarah.

And, although it is called Lawley's Bakery, the business has expanded much further than Mount Lawley's boundaries.

Lawley's Bakery opened a new outlet in Shenton Park Village shopping centre two weeks ago, in the former Baker's Dream outlet, and is already preparing to open another one in Wembley by December.

This adds to the five existing shops located in the Fremantle Markets, the Subiaco Markets, the Mount Claremont Markets, Applecross and Osborne Park.

Sarah Thomas said the pair had always looked to establish new businesses in areas that have a neighbourhood feel.

"We don't want to be a big chain but stay a small community bakery," she said.

"In Mount Lawley you can tell that the shopping industry is changing; people like to walk more, there's a neighbourhood kind of feel that we looked for in other areas to open shops."

With the wholesale part of Lawley's Bakery representing half of the business, the Thomases expanded their bread making premises by relocating to Osborne Park in March 2007.

Mr Thomas said they can't keep up with the demand and have a long waiting list of potential customers.

He believes the business' success is due to Lawley's products having a unique mix of different influences.

"We have a blend of European and Australian pastries with a heavy emphasis on true sourdough mixed with more traditional Australian bread like your tin bread, and except those, everything is hand-moulded," he said.

Most outlets also have a café attached to the bakery, serving Lawley's own coffee blend.

Like many industries in WA, the handmade artisan industry is experiencing a critical labour shortage. "Staff is the main hurdle and we try to keep key staff at all times. We have two main managers in the business, they're a married couple that we inherited when we bought the Mount Lawley bakery, which used to be a Jewish bagel shop," Mr Thomas said.

"Anything we do with the business we discuss with David and Liz [Katzir]."

Total staff in the business increased by 20 employees when the Shenton Park shop was launched, and Mr Thomas said he sourced a lot of his staff through sponsorship visas.

He says that having international employees in the business has been a plus because of the influences they can bring to the product offering.

"The most difficult part of the business is sourcing staff. Now we have people from France, South Africa, England, Uganda. It's like the whole UN here. They bring different products and ideas with them," he said.

Mr Thomas says he recruits apprentices aged 20 years old and older. "We advertise for mature age apprentices because a lot of kids don't know what they want to do up to when they are 18-20 years old."

"They can handle the shift work a lot easier and because they are older they don't go out to the pub every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, they have a different social life."

Before starting Lawley's, the Thomases had run four Baker's Delight franchises for about five years.

"Baker's Delights and Brumby's make nothing like we do and you have no freedom in the products that you sell with them, but they teach you a lot about business," Mrs Thomas said.

Lawley's Bakery, with the exception of the markets outlets, are open seven days a week from 6.30 am to 5.30 pm. The Osborne Park shop is open Monday to Friday.

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