Australian Bakery COBS Bread Is Branching Out On Long Island, With Stores Opening Soon in Oceanside and Merrick

COBS Bread, an Australian bakery that specializes in bread, is expanding to Long Island starting with locations coming soon to Merrick and Oceanside.

“Our focus is very much on bread,” said Karen Frost-Spokes, the vice president of COBS Bread USA, in a phone interview with recently.

Coming to America

Frost-Spokes, who is leading the expansion plan of the company across the northeast United States, was speaking from Connecticut where COBS Bread already has two locations. 

Back in 1980 – over forty years ago and 10,000 miles away – Roger and Lesley Gillespie launched COBS Bread in Melbourne Australia. In the ensuing years they expanded their bakery business from one location to over 500 in Australia and New Zealand and more than 170 in Canada. Right now they have two in the United States but that’s going to grow, according to Frost-Spokes. Americans are about to know the COBS Bread name, especially on Long Island. In addition to Merrick and Oceanside, there are plans for bakeries in Plainview and Carle Place. (As of now there are no locations picked out for Suffolk County.) If all goes right they plan to have over 300 COBS Bread locations open over the next ten years.

Roger and Lesley Gillespie (founders of COBS Bread), Karen Frost-Spokes, (Vice President) and Rosie Rosario (District Manager for Long Island)

(Left to right) Roger and Lesley Gillespie (founders), Karen Frost-Spokes, (Vice President) and Rosie Rosario (District Manager for Long Island). 📷  Courtesy of COBS Bread.

Baked Fresh Daily

Their bread is baked using local ingredients with no added preservatives and made in-store every day.

“It’s made the old fashioned, traditional way,” Frost-Spokes said.

Bakers start anywhere from 1am to 3am producing the bread for the store for that day. Typically they have eight bakers at each location in total and hire 12 sales staff per store. All the leftover bread at the close of business is donated to local food pantries and schools to help fight food insecurity.

“We never have day-old bread,” said Frost-Spokes. “At the end of every day we donate all leftover bread to charity.”

To date, in Canada, according to Frost-Spokes, the company has donated $560 million of unused product to over 500 charities. That’s over 20 years in business in that country. It’s a model they are replicating here both in their charitable donations and the way they operate their business.

No Room For Anything Else But Bread

“We place a huge emphasis on training staff and personalized service,” she said. “Our business model is to make great bread, have fantastic customer service and give back to the community.”

The company tries to pair up their stores with complimentary neighbors. For example, their Merrick location is opening right next door to a Starbucks. That’s because all they do is make bread. There is no sit down service, no counters and no coffee. Merrick at 2013 Merrick Road is one of their smaller footprints just over 1,000 square feet in total; Oceanside at 3187 Long Beach Road is about 1,500 square feet. Their sweet spot is 1,200-square-foot space, which provides room for both their baking area and counter service.

The sales staff will bag everything and box and slice it for customers. They will have some grab and go racks in the front (for things like dinner rolls and baguettes) but for the most part it’s all behind the counter.

The store has a number of different types of bread including loafs like sourdough and country grain, buns and rolls, traditional French baguettes and Challah. They also do scones and classic cinnamon buns.

“We are quite well known for our scones,” said Frost-Spokes.

It’s Long Island so they have to offer bagels, right?

Frost-Spokes said that they started a trial run offering bagels in their Stanford, CT location. While not your typical Long Island bagels (New York-style bagels are boiled and these are not) she said that they have been a popular item there.

“It’s been incredible successful,” Frost-Spokes said.

Bagels will be available at the Long Island locations when they open.

COBS Bread in Oceanside

Oceanside location of COBS Bread. 📷  Courtesy of COBS Bread.

Coming Soon to Long Island

After opening the initial two American spots in Connecticut, the company saw an opportunity to build out on Long Island. Oceanside should be open in about two months (early November 2023) with Merrick planned for sometime in mid-November 2023. 

For now, they have local operators running corporate-owned stores but the idea is to franchise future locations once they have created brand awareness for COBS Bread. They expect motivated entrepreneurs to see their business model in action and then expand it organically.

They have an extensive training program for their bakers who come from the local community. Frost-Spokes said it’s always impressive to see how the bakers fill the shops from nothing when they arrive at 2am.

“Bread is quite an art,” she said.

Cover picture: Merrick location of COBS Bread. 📷  Courtesy of COBS Bread.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the Oceanside location would be open in two weeks. That was not right. Both Merrick and Oceanside should be opening around November 2023, according to a company spokesperson.

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