top of page
  • Writer's picturescraze

How Ashburton spawned Brumby’s and Bakers Delight

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

This is the surprisingly fascinating story of how the two leading fresh bread bakery franchises in Australia - Brumby's and Bakers Delight - came to life in Ashburton.

UPDATE: Updated on 22 May 2023 after Roger Gillespie corrected me on a few things. Updated again on 6 September 2023 after David Winter, former Managing Director of OSBC got in touch to clarify a few things too.

In 2022, Brumby’s and Bakers Delight held 16 per cent of the country’s fresh bread market. In Ashburton, their outlets are situated on opposite sides of High Street: Brumby’s on the north side at 247 and Bakers Delight on the south side at 178.

The Yoga Instructor

Yogendra in his later years. Courtesy of School of Total Education

Our story begins rather unexpectedly with a handsome and exceptionally charismatic yoga instructor. Indian-born Vijayadev “Vijay” Yogendra married a Melbourne woman in 1962 and moved here soon after. Recalled journalist Peter Ellingsen in 2005, ‘I studied yoga with him. He seemed to walk the Eastern wisdom he talked. He was astute and plausible, a humble man who just happened to have a direct line to the divine. It was a heady mix for altruistic baby boomers.’[1]

By the late 1960s, Yogendra began to actively contribute to the rise of counter-culture in Australia. This was a word given to the global revolution across western countries of young people railing against everything that symbolised the industrial state. The conservative media of the time christened these people derogatorily as ‘hippies’. In Australia, ‘hippies’ sought to facilitate social change from the conservative post-WWII years. They opposed the Vietnam War (especially because the men were at risk of being conscripted into it) and rejected the western philosophies that underpinned it.[2] They embraced the idea of being more conscious of their consumption and its impact on the planet.

For his followers, Yogendra embodied these ideals. He began teaching yoga at Melbourne universities. This helped him quickly gather scores of idealistic young students eager to absorb his special ‘knowledge’. Among them were Roger Gillespie and Michael Sherlock. They both studied economics; Roger at the University of Melbourne; Michael at Monash University.

The two young men embraced Yogendra’s vision to build a school in Chapel Street, St Kilda with high educational and social standards. The school’s philosophy was to have only one teacher for every five students, low fees and hot meals for lunch.[3] However, to produce thoughtful, educated and well-balanced children through the school, the operation needed to find a steady source of income.

The site of the School in St Kilda today

Roger’s father had taught his son how to bake fresh bread from scratch. Although he eschewed the trappings of capitalism, he hit on the idea of starting a fresh bread bakery to help fund the new school.

The idea came at a very opportune time. This is because, in the same vein as milk and dairy production, bread production in 1970s Australia had become heavily industrialised.

Bread in Australia

Australia’s indigenous communities were among the very first inventors of the process of grinding seeds into flour, potentially pre-dating the ancient Egyptians. The British settlers called the indigenous bread ‘damper’. However, they preferred to make it out of their own wheat. In fact, they were so attached to their own wheat (despite the complete unsuitability of it to Australia’s soil and climate to its growing conditions) that they imported seeds with the First Fleet in 1788. After much experimentation, the new colonists established the Australian wheat industry and created a nation of enthusiastic bread consumers.

The invention of pre-milled white flour in the 1870s revolutionised the bread manufacturing process. Bakers began to develop different bread varieties and styles. However, bread went stale within a day. So until the 1950s, most households not making their own bread had their unsliced and unwrapped bread delivered to the door by their baker every morning.

The rapid rise of supermarkets began in the early 1960s. It created a demand for bread to be pre-sliced and readily available for purchase on the shelves. Pre-sliced bread needed packaging to maintain freshness and differentiate brands. It was also less likely to be bought daily, so needed additives that prolonged the shelf-life of the bread.

According to the wonderful blog Australian Food Timeline, before long, the manufacturing process included mould inhibitors, softeners, emulsifiers, taste-enhancers, free-flowing agents, yeast stimulants and stiffeners to reduce the rising time of the dough. In Australia, Sydney-based company Tip Top responded to this demand and quickly captured the supermarket bread market.

The Tip Top Factory, courtesy of Facebook

It was cheap and convenient but was it even bread anymore?

The Old Style Bread Centre

Roger's father had been a horse-and-cart baker. British flour group Home Pride bought his service in 1954 to close it down and force everyone to buy their bread from the supermarket.[4] So for Roger, the idea of selling bread like it was in the old days spoke to Yogendra’s ideals. Now all he needed was the right location.

‘We found an old butcher’s shop, had a working bee, painted it, got second-hand machinery and started a bakery,’ Michael Sherlock told The Australian in 2005.*[5] This shop was at 178 High Street, Ashburton. They decided to name it Old Style Bread Centre. Today, this is the present day Baker’s Delight.

More on that in a moment.

Iconic Yellow Pages logo

According to the Yellow Pages (remember those?!) in the early 1970s, there were not a lot of fresh bread bakeries around Melbourne. Not one of them were in Ashburton. In fact, most were not even in the eastern suburbs.

However, according to the Sands and McDougall business directory for 1974, Ashburton had seven butchers along High Street. This implies it had a thriving commercial precinct that supported small, traditional businesses rather than large supermarkets. According to Roger Gillespie, Ashburton was not an expensive area and at the time, had more people with shopping trolleys than prams.

So perhaps mid-1970s Ashburton was just the kind of commercial environment needed for two hippies to make money for their yoga instructor while sticking it to Big Bread.

Aside from a mention in Camberwell Council minutes, there is almost nothing on public record that survives about the Old Style Bread Centre in Ashburton. Roger Gillespie brought David Winter onboard as Managing Director to franchise and manage the expansion of the business. According to him, the first new store opened in Moorabbin.

It must have been very successful because by 1978, it had gone from Ashburton but expanded to six outlets: St Kilda and East St Kilda, two in Mt Waverley, Malvern, Carnegie, and Beaumaris. The rapid expansion was entirely motivated by Yogendra’s need for money for his school. Roger and Michael realised the way to do this was through franchising.

According to Roger, OSBC moved out of Ashburton because the local population began to age and, 'old people don't eat much.' They sold the business to a pastry shop.

As his coffers filled, a new side to Vijay Yogendra emerged.

The break from Yogendra

1984 Advertisement for the Old Style Bread Centre

No-one knows exactly how much money the Old Style Bread Centre and its franchises made for Yogendra. His followers saw him as Christ-like and wanted to back him. They worked for little or no pay. But as they readily embraced his mantra of sacrifice for spiritual growth, Yogendra accepted brown paper bags full of cash.[6] That said, it does seem that a lot of money really did go to his School of Total Education in St Kilda.

According to Michael Sherlock, one day around 1980, Yogendra told his followers that while he was on a ride at the Royal Show he had a vision of Melbourne in flames. He decided to follow the advice of the decorated Vietnam War veteran Colonel David Hackworth (who had inspired the mercurial character of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now) and move to south-east Queensland. Hackworth believed it was the most likely place in the world to survive a nuclear attack. Yogendra believed him.

So Yogendra and a hundred followers, including Roger, his new wife Lesley, and Michael, moved to Warwick, near Toowoomba. They set up another School of Total Education. It survives today.

Meanwhile, the business relationship between the two associates suffered.

The birth of Bakers Delight

Bakers Delight Hawthorn in 2023

After the move to Queensland, Yogendra’s teachings began to fail Roger and Lesley. Having foregone earnings and donated tens of thousands of dollars in profit to Yogendra and his businesses, they now needed to financially support a young family.

Whatever Yogendra’s response was to this decision caused Roger to change his mind about him. ‘The guy was a liar and a cheat,’ he told Alan Kohler in 2005.

But Michael remained loyal. The Old Style Bread Centre was intrinsically linked with Yogendra, so Roger and Lesley needed to break from it to free themselves from Yogendra’s grasp. According to a rare 2005 interview with Roger, there was no personal animosity between him and Michael. Michael too speaks of Roger with a healthy dose of respect. Perhaps one day they will tell more of their sides of this story.

What is known is that in 1980, Roger and Lesley moved back to Melbourne and started Bakers’ Delight in Hawthorn.

The Old Style Bread Centre becomes Brumby’s

Although it disappeared from Ashburton after only a few years, the Old Style Bread Centre thrived. With Yogendra's move to Queensland, franchise operations expanded there in the early 1980s under the name Brumby’s; after the wild horses descended from European settlers.

According to David Winter, the managing director at the time, before listing on the ASX, 'the company had no debt and was highly profitable with over 65 franchises.' In 1985, Michael Myer - of the Myer retail family and also a yoga student of Yogendra - decided a more Australian identity would strength the brand for when it listed on the Melbourne Stock Exchange as Dancorp Limited. All the Old Style Bread Centre stores then changed to Brumby’s.[7]

'I resigned at the time,' said David Winter. 'There was much animosity. Within 3 years, mismanagement caused the company to collapse and it was placed in liquidation. The liquidator ran the business profitably for several years.' Michael Sherlock had remained as a franchisee in Brisbane during this period.

The 1987 Stock Market Crash became the catalyst for Michael Sherlock to discover what Roger Gillespie had already realised about Yogendra. It took all the fortunes of Yogendra’s cult with it. ‘The bankruptcy of OSBC corrupted his inner circle. I was brought in to rescue the whole thing,’ Michael said in 2005. At first he thought it crashed because Yogendra had bad advice. ‘But it was just that he had a black heart,’ he continued. ‘That’s when I fell out with him and left.’[8]

As part of the cult’s financial reconstruction, several businesses were sold off. One of these was Brumby’s. One of the consortiums of tenderers for the Brumby’s business was headed by Michael Sherlock; another by his former business associate Roger Gillespie. Sherlock won. Brumby’s was his.

Brumby’s and Bakers Delight today

By 1992, Bakers Delight had 350 franchised stores throughout Australia and New Zealand. ‘Our biggest growth was going from one bakery to two,’ Lesley told The Australian in 2014. ‘It has been a great journey as it has enabled us to get more bread to more people, more often.’ Thirty years later, the business retains the franchise model Roger learnt at the Old Style Bread Centre and it is still a privately held family affair. It is currently believed to be worth $800 million.

Michael Sherlock had a rougher road with Brumby’s. Reeling from his fallout from Yogendra, his marriage failed to survive. However, over time, he clawed back Brumby’s market share and by 2007, he had established 320 franchises of Brumby’s Bakeries.[9] That year, the business was taken over by the Retail Food Group and Michael Sherlock stepped down from it.[10] He retained ownership of five Brumby’s stores but went on to pursue business coaching and speaking endeavours.

Now there is one more little twist to this story.

Brumby’s and Bakers Delight ... in Ashburton

Bakers Delight arrived in Ashburton in 1985. Brumby’s opened a franchise in Ashburton around 1995.

Through the Old Style Bread Centre connection, Brumby’s claim they started in Ashburton in 1975. This is true but it is Bakers Delight that occupies the original shop at 178 High Street, not Brumby's.

Was this decision to take over the old shop a deliberate choice to honour the company’s roots by Roger or just a coincidence? Roger says it was deliberate. 'We contacted the pastry shop and he sold it back to us. By this time, the area's demographic had changed again towards young, bread-buying families.

Roger Gillespie still comes in to visit occasionally. According to him, the absence of a large supermarket makes Ashburton one of the best fresh food centres in Melbourne today.

Finally, if you’re wondering why the Bakers Delight building is that peculiar purple, according to the manager, for years the apartment upstairs remained the same shade, embellished with moons and stars to honour the shop’s original purpose: to fund a St Kilda school and a charlatan yoga instructor.

NB: Yogendra died in 2005, leaving behind a controversial and heart-breaking legacy.

A big thanks to Tom at Camberwell Library for helping me with the original address and to Roger Gillespie for giving me a call and answering my questions. By the way, he still does yoga!

* After publication, Michael Sherlock also got in touch. He advised that during the renovations of the butcher shop in 1975, 22 year old Michael Toyne fell from a ladder and tragically died. A cycling enthusiast, the Footscray Cycling Club held a race for many years dedicated to his memory.

* Thanks to David Winter who read this story and sent me his thoughts.

References/Eye-rollingly bad bread puns

[1] Ellingsen, Peter, "The Guru, His Wife, the Followers and Their Fortune," Sunday Age, 26 June 2005. [2] Fraser, Andrew, "Peace, Love and Bread," The Australian, 13 October 2005. [3] Ibid. [4] Kohler, Alan, "Family's Appetite Stays Strong," The Northern Territory News, Nationwide News, Darwin, 8 May 2014. [5] Fraser, "Peace, Love and Bread." [6] Ellingsen, "The Guru, His Wife, the Followers and Their Fortune." [7] "It's Oven Fresh," The Advertiser, South Australia, 8 September 2004. [8] Fraser, "Peace, Love and Bread." [9] Cooper, Cameron, "Retired but Not Loafing," The Australian, 29 October 2010. See also, Fraser, Andrew, "On the Go: Brumby's Earns Better Crust," The Australian, 10 August 2005. [10] "Brumby's Battlers Build Bridges to Break Bread," Gold Coast Bulletin, 8 June 2007.

483 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page