Note that I am not going to add to the COVID and post COVID writing on sourdough. Greg Dee is the custodian of the sourdough mysteries and the consistent perfection and texture of the flour dusted golden top of the classic Elwood rye loaf and the ever further refinement and experimentation of the other bread baked there.
Before COVID, I had bought Elwood Sourdough in a shop. I knew it was made locally in Elwood but wasn’t quite sure where. I happened across Elwood Sourdough a bit Hansel and Gretel like when I observed an irregular procession of people walking along the Canal path with pleasant purpose and returning shortly afterwards with a loaf.
The approach to Elwood Sourdough Bakery is entirely open. No fence. Solar panels welcome the sun. Only a screen of salt bush and a gracious peppercorn tree separate the house/bakery from the Canal path. While we sleep, loaves bake.
Greg Dee and Tracy Harvey live, bake and work from Addison St. Tracy sells the bread from the carport of their Elwood home. Council permission to sell the bread from home came surprisingly easily with no red tape experienced. Released from the hard yakka of late nights and early mornings as the business has grown, Tracy has become the business’s front of house.
Every day Tracy orchestrates a new performance of selling the loaves. Each morning, seven days a week, the set is re-assembled. The freshly baked loaves are enticingly stacked in pleasing arrangements. Tracy draws on a long career in comedy, performance and songwriting in her interactions with people buying bread. She has also worked as a clerk at the Alfred for many, many years. Customer service is second nature to her. She knows how to put people at ease. She is a comfortable host.
The bakery became a focal point along the Canal during COVID lockdown. Often there were queues as people distanced on the friendly markers and Tracy would keep customers entertained as well as introducing them to one another. She brokers relationships in the community, connects people.
While buying bread one day, I noticed copies of Life Upside Down, a book introducing the Grey-headed Flying-fox. It was for sale raising funds for Elsternwick Park. The book was written by Doug Gimesy. I recognised Doug’s name, as it was he who initiated the process of having the platypus listed as vulnerable in Victoria. Before the hour was out, Tracy had connected me with Doug and we had arranged to meet..
Tracy also brings the vitality and cheer of her creative background to the design of the wrappers for their growing range of products. She also had input into the development of the spotty, a fruit bun, said to be responsible for many COVID kilos.
It is plain to see that Tracy herself is part of the leaven1 of the Bakery. She puts people at ease. She facilitates introductions. Returning customers share their stories with her. She delights in the visiting children, and wins their confidence. She has been known to slip a little something extra into the paper bag. The whole operation is movingly generous. The relentlessly hard work underpinning the development of the business and its continuing operation remains invisible to the casual customer.
1Leaven verb permeate and modify or transform (something) for the better.
You’ll find Elwood Sourdough between 8.30 and 11.30 at 78 Addison St where Addison St meets the Canal, but if you want a spotty, make sure to go early.
Check Elwood Sourdough website for a list of products, outlets and Farmers Markets.