21 September, 2021
Popular bakery rises from the ashes
Jana Whittaker and her team at the Cooktown Bakery have been run off their feet this year in what has been a sharp turnaround for the business.
By MATT NICHOLLS
Just weeks out from Christmas, the bakery was destroyed by a fire, which threatened to end one of Cooktown’s most popular tourist destinations.
But with a new location in the CBD and loyal staff in tow, the business has been able to cater for a massive tourism season.
“It’s been lovely. The new premises is great and the locals have been marvellous; so supportive,” Jana told Cape York Weekly.
“The tourists keep rolling in and we’ve been busy all year.”
The new site on Charlotte Street opened in March and it’s been flat chat every since.
“The owners of this place gave us a ring and said ‘have a look’,” Jana said.
“It had been used as a restaurant before but hadn’t been outfitted for a bakery. We had to start from scratch.”
Keeping core staff on the books while the doors were shut was the key to this year’s success.
“I was lucky that we could keep two of my long-term staff with some casual work between my husband (Greg) and I,” Jana said.
“And the baker. If you lose your baker you are in big trouble.”
The old bakery site was iconic and was often the first business that tourists noticed when coming into Cooktown.
The car park remains, but there is no sign of the old building after the remains were demolished and cleared.
Jana said it was a shame to lose the old site, but there were positives about being right in town.
“A lot of people are saying that when they come over that rise they go ‘oh look, the bakery is gone’ but then they find us here without any problem,” she said.
“It’s still a really good position and we have a side street that can cater for the caravans and the campers.
“I haven’t seen the campers like this for 10 years.”
The Cooktown Expo was a big challenge for the bakery, with the team working 10-days for weeks to keep up with the demand.
“We couldn’t keep up with the pies ... they were selling quicker than we could make them,” Jana said with a smile.
“It was really good in terms of business but we are usually closed on Sundays because you need a day off. You can’t just run yourself into the ground.”