For a business to go through three generations of hands and to still retain its heart is rare. Black Forest Bakery in Braamfontein has been in German hands, in one form or another, for over eighty years. Their secret? Always look to your roots, keep it simple and go back to basics.
The business was established in 1935 as Café Echo, a German-owned coffee shop in Loveday Street. Just over four decades later, the Speer family bought it with a new vision for this cake and confectionery café. Inspired by their heritage, they introduced German-made rye bread, which they baked on-site and made the bold decision to display only what they made themselves on shelf. The biblical adage, “your daily bread” was the driving force behind their philosophy that, unlike cake, good bread was a vital part of one’s diet, which is still central to their ethos today.
The changes the Speers made turned the business around and it started to flourish. By the 1980s, however, Jo’burg’s inner city was crumbling, as businesses migrated out of the inner city, further north to the now affluent suburbs in and around Sandton. The time had come to innovate once again. Where at first, they made only German and the lighter Swiss rye breads, soon they were developing a wider range of bread that included various wheat-based and sourdough varieties, which were in great demand with large hotel and supermarket chains.
Today, the new owners, Maike and Chris, continue to meet their customers’ collective need for eating more mindfully by remaining faithful to the bakery’s spirit. They still bake everything from scratch and by hand – and work with only the most natural rye, wheat and ancient grains in the development of their recipes.
Find out more at blackforestbakery.co.za