Meet A Trader: Lida and Ali of Provence Artisan Bakers in Camberwell
Article posted: November 12, 2015
As you enter Provence Artisan Bakers, you feel instantly transported to a traditional bakery in France – the shop is small and cosy, often bustling with customers, and you are delighted with the smells of freshly baked bread and sweet pastries.
Co-owners Lida Rahmai and Mohammed Ali, who goes by Ali, both worked at a large wholesale food company for more than 10 years before they decided to join forces and start their own bakery.
Lida and Ali set up shop in Burke Rd, Camberwell about four years ago and business has been thriving ever since.
The bakery sells a range of products including breads, tarts, pastries, sandwiches, quiches and cakes. Among the best sellers are their famous sausage rolls, Portuguese tarts, almond croissants and sourdough bread.
“We are both so passionate about baking good quality food,” Lida said.
“This is one thing that I love to do. This is my comfort zone. It doesn’t matter how busy I am outside the door, when I get in here I want to be here 100 per cent.”
Camberwell was selected for the location of their bakery because they felt the area was a perfect fit.
“People in this area are very well educated about food and they value food. So Camberwell was a perfect area for what we wanted to do,” Lida said.
As an artisan bakery, all products are created by hand, with baking beginning in the early hours of the morning to ensure everything is made fresh daily.
No machinery is used to produce the breads and pastries, giving them an authentic and rustic touch.
“We look at it as an art,” Lida said.
“We didn’t want to do something that everyone else is doing. We wanted to be different and give something to our customers that they deserve – quality, flavours, no chemicals. It’s a point of difference for us.”
And you won’t just find this personal touch in their products – the customer service and friendly atmosphere of the bakery is exceptional too.
“I’d say 90 per cent of our customers are regulars. It’s like a big family. We know most of our customers by their name,” Lida said.
While a large portion of their customers are from the local area, many travel a fair distance to get to the bakery.
“We had this beautiful lady who used to travel all the way from Mt Dandenong, where she ran a hotel, to buy our heavy fruit loaf for their breakfasts,” Lida said.
“We’ve also got customers coming from the other side of town, as far as Thomastown.”
Lida said the biggest compliment was when customers returned on a regular basis.
The humble bakery with a big heart has also enjoyed success in the wholesale and catering space, supplying their food to cafes across Melbourne and also catering for large events such as corporate functions, the Spring Racing Carnival and the Grand Prix.
Offering wholesale and catering services came about as a decision to create additional streams of income other than direct sales to customers who visit the bakery, Lida said.
“We had other business owners coming to us and asking if we could supply to them so we saw an opportunity to diversify our business in that area,” she said.
“They often ask for stuff that nobody else does so we create custom orders for them – beer breads, pastries in different sizes or specific flavour combinations.”
Responding to what their customers want has been an important part of doing good business, Lida said.
“It makes the customers happy because they can get what they ask for,” she said.
“And for us, we feel like it is taking on a challenge and we love a good challenge.”
The bakery has ambitious plans for the near future, and hope to open a second store in Camberwell next year.
But while they want to grow, they want to maintain that personal touch and passion Provence is renowned for, Lida said.
“If you love what you’re doing and you put that love into what you’re doing, all your customers can feel it, they can taste it.”
Visit the store
919 Burke Rd, Camberwell
Phone: (03) 9813 4252
Open Tuesday – Sunday