There has been a takeaway shop in Gloucester St serving the semi-industrial location around Vanguard St and St Vincent St for as many years as I can remember, and various owners have produced a wide range of variable quality food.
After being closed for a few months a new owner has stepped in, rebranded the shop as Gloucester’s Bakehouse and rejuvenated the food offering. Andy Ly’s family owned the business for many years until they sold it in 2015. Andy says he grew up helping in what was then the Gloucester St Food Parlour so is very familiar with the location and the sort of food their local customers want.
Andy’s family story starts long before he spent hours before school and after school helping his parents who arrived in Nelson in 1994, they escaped Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge militia force period to Thailand where they lived in a refugee camp.
Andy was born in the camp and was a UN citizen until the family migrated to New Zealand, “Our parents had absolutely nothing, they worked several jobs doing whatever they needed to do to get established in Nelson. They saved as much as possible to save enough to open a business.”
Andy is obviously very proud of his family and the opportunities they created for him while establishing what is arguably one of Nelson’s largest family food enterprises. Having started at the Gloucester St Food Parlour his parents, aunties and uncles now own a number of food businesses in the region.
But this is about Andy and his journey, a journey that has included him achieving a Bachelor in Aviation degree from Massey University which qualified him as an airline pilot. “I initially qualified as a pilot in New Zealand and further qualified in Australia, USA and most recently Cambodia.
“But with all my qualifications, ratings and experience I still had to build up my flying hours and experience before I could get an airline job. After graduation, I flew around New Zealand building my hours and flying experience before moving over to Australia to train with Flight Training Adelaide where they train pilots for major airlines like Cathay Pacific, Qantas Airlines and Japan Airlines.”
Andy then spent some time back in Nelson working in the family bakery before he went to USA to train on the jets, after which he relocated to Cambodia where he successfully landed a job with one of Cambodia’s leading airlines “and then covid came along which halted my flying career.”
His family had bought the Gloucester St building in 2010 when they still owned the business “so when the last owners decided not to extend their lease our parents asked my brother and I if we wanted to take it on and rebuild the business.”
Andy and his brother Minh own the business, but Andy runs it, in fact he is the only person working day-to-day in the business with help from his mother at busy times. And he works very long hours, arriving at the bakery at 4.30am each day, opens the doors at 6.30 and closes at 3pm. “Then I work when I close the doors, everything needs to be cleaned, I need to get fresh supplies for the next day from local suppliers and then start preparing food to the next day too.
“You can’t just put a hot filling into pie pastry shells so it needs to be made and cooled down overnight so I can bake the pies fresh in the morning.”
This huge work ethic is obviously passed down from his grandparents and parents, for Andy every day is a long day.
As well as rebranding to Gloucester’s Bakehouse and giving the premises a bit of love with a coat of paint the food has been the biggest change; while they still sell classic lunch bar food Kiwi’s love it is the quality that has improved hugely.
“We bake the bread for our sandwiches and rolls fresh every morning at our other bakery because it has all the equipment and the facilities there are just bigger, we then bring it over to Gloucester’s Bakehouse prepare all the sandwiches and rolls fresh and ready every morning for our customers.”
If you want to make great food, then you need to use great ingredients and put in the effort to make the very best product you can. “We get a lot of positive customer reviews and feedback for our sandwiches but mostly the star of the show has been our pies.
“We hand make all our pies and pastry in house, just the pastry alone takes about two days to make each batch. We then allow time for the pastry to rest before rolling it over our pies and baking them.
“It is a very time consuming process and costly process especially now with prices of raw products and supplies increasing nearly every week and that’s why many other bakeries buy premade and pre-rolled pastry, but for me it’s about the quality of the product – homemade with love and care using old family recipes.”
It’s the fresh bread and generous fillings that are drawing customers to the refreshed Gloucester’s Bakehouse, their freshly made doughnuts and handcrafted artisan pies are cooked to a golden, flaky, crisp perfection. Packed with homemade fillings that have chunks of meat (or whatever your favourite flavour is) not just full of gravy with a few scraps of meat. They are fantastic!
Andy gave me a steak and kidney pie to try, with large pieces of kidney and big pieces of steak it has to be one of the best pies I have had in a very long time.
He has also quickly developed a strong following for his food, especially from local businesses. “I want to be part of the local business community, they come in everyday, so I like to give them something as a treat. I give them samples of new products to get some feedback, because they know me they can tell me the truth without offending me.”
All the food is made fresh every day, nothing is carried over to the next day, “anything left at the end of the day we give away, I will give the last donut to a regular or I drop off a few treats to local businesses. My relationship with customers is really important, showing my appreciation like this is a good thing to do and they tell other people about the quality of the food which helps grow my business.”
I asked Andy what his customer’s favourite flavours are. “Our best sellers are steak & cheese, mince & cheese and our gourmet breakfast pie. That has whole free-range egg, hash brown, breakfast sausage, cheese, onions and hollandaise sauce, it weighs close to 450 grams and tradies love them early in the day.
“Customers also come in for our sausage rolls too, when I opened a couple of months ago I used to make about 10 a day, now it’s 50-70 and numbers are growing every day.”
Andy says he intends to rebuild the business into what it can be and deserves to be, “there has been a food store here for decades, I know how popular it was when my family owned it so I know it can be a successful part of the food scene around Gloucester St.”