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Growing up with Goldsteins

Tim Baker | June 26, 2019

How a much-loved family bakery and the city in which it prospered have evolved hand in hand.

For decades, one of the first things many holiday makers do when they get to the Gold Coast is to head to Goldsteins for one of their award-winning pies.

It’s become a tradition, almost as synonymous with the Gold Coast as a trip to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary or the theme parks, a beer on the deck of Rainbow Bay Surf Club or scones with jam and cream at Springbrook.

Fittingly, Goldsteins has been bestowed the honour of creating the city’s Diamond Jubilee celebratory cake, to mark the 60th anniversary of its name change from the South Coast to the Gold Coast.

But this beloved, third generation, family business has its origins in a desperate escape from persecution in Nazi Germany after the dreaded Kristallnacht, or “night of glass”, when Jewish Synagogues and shops were targeted by marauding mobs in Berlin in 1938 on the cusp of the second world war.

Julius Goldstein came from a long line of “konditors”, or traditional German bakers, but he was visionary enough to read the writing on the wall and fled the rise of Nazism with his heavily pregnant wife Paula. “My father had approached the Australian consulate in Berlin, and had all his papers ready to go,” says their son Frank Goldstein. “Dad had a love for Australia for some reason and I don’t know exactly why.”

With 100 Deutschmarks borrowed from Paula’s family, the young couple made their way to Italy. On November 20, 1938, they boarded a Japanese passenger liner bound for a new life in Australia. Eight days later, as they navigated the Suez Canal, their first child John was born. Another 36 members of their extended family would not be so fortunate and fell victim to Hitler’s crazed Holocaust atrocities.

The young family had to change ships in Hong Kong when the one they were on broke down, and finally on January 13, 1939, they arrived in Australia. That day also happened to be Black Friday, when one of the worst bushfires in our history killed 71 people, and burned 2,000,000 hectares of land as temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius. They must have wondered where they’d come to, and if they were out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Julius Goldstein came from a long line of “konditors”, or traditional German baker
Julius with his wife, Paula
Paula with sons Frank and John

The Goldsteins settled in Brisbane and Frank joined the army as a cook at a military hospital as World War II raged. A few years later, though times were tough and many businesses were closing down, Julius took a bold punt with very little money and opened the Busy Bee bakery in Roma Street, Brisbane, in 1944, shortly before the end of the war.

“There was a very large kitchen area with two big ovens. The landlord owned the ovens and the machines. My dad came in with very little capital. It was desperate times, everyone was broke,” says Frank. But the business boomed, as European migrants sought out their delicacies as a reminder of home and the Jewish community flocked for their challah – a special bread, usually braided, reserved for Shabbat, the Sabbath. Locals, too, soon developed a taste for formerly unknown exotic treats like apple strudel and cheese cake.

“Mum’s window dressing just bowled people over,” remembers Frank, the Roma St shopfront piled high with elaborately arranged cakes, pastries and bread.

“There were a lot of displaced persons because of the war. This country was very gracious to Jewish people,” says Frank.

“I used to serve in the shop, serving Jewish bread on Friday night and it was flat out. We were one of the first kosher bakers in Queensland.”

The family home was a big, old Queenslander set high on stumps and became a halfway house for many extended family members as they too immigrated. “Our father brought his remaining family to Australia, gave them jobs, a place to live, and when they got up and on their feet, they left and dad brought someone else out,” says Frank.

The family soon discovered the South Coast, as it was then known, and enjoyed many family holidays in Tugun, Currumbin, Palm Beach and Burleigh Heads, before moving here permanently in 1957, just a year before the booming coastal city was renamed the Gold Coast. And it would certainly provide good fortune to the Goldstein family.

Their first bakery was in Thornton St, Surfers Paradise, followed soon by a shop in Cavill Avenue.

“When we opened the shop, it opened to such accolades. All the Europeans who had survived the Holocaust came up here on holidays and they’d buy the European-style products, the cheesecakes, strudels, challah.”

“A lot of the reason they came here was because they knew they could get kosher food up here. And we were winning a lot of accolades from our locals as well. We were very blessed,” says Frank.

Eldest son John soon followed in the family trade and undertook a baker’s apprenticeship as business continued to prosper as the city grew. As new shopping centres opened up landlords knew they had to have a Goldsteins bakery in the mix to attract people. They had a store in Sundale shopping centre, Southport Park, Pacific Fair.

Julius believed in hard work and was in the bakery at all hours, but it finally took a toll. He’d been discharged from the army on medical grounds because of his diabetes and he eventually passed away in the bakery in 1962 at the age of just 56. “He died in our arms in the bakery in Surfers Paradise. It was one of the biggest funerals I can ever recall,” says Frank.

The two brothers Frank and John took over the running of the business and expanded to 18 stores at their peak and became heavily involved in the Gold Coast community. John co-founded the Gold Coast Marathon in 1979 after witnessing the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii, and Goldsteins was the first local company to sponsor the Gold Coast Show. When John’s wife fell ill, he sold his share of the business to his brother Frank, whose two sons Martin and Joshua soon followed in the family trade.

“When I was a kid we’d sneak around and grew up with a lot of the staff who used to sneak us a donut. We grew up in and around the shops. I grew up at Pacific Fair, we used to be skateboarding around in there,” recalls Joshua.

“I felt the calling to come in and do an apprenticeship. John and Frank were owners of the business and John sold his share of the business to Dad 15 years ago,” says Joshua, the third generation of Goldsteins to run the business. “We’re all extremely tight. Frank, he’s very passionate. He’s always thinking about work, he’s on the phone all the time.”

Joshua travelled for a few years, living in Sydney and Melbourne, but when it came time to start a family himself, he knew he wanted to return to the Gold Coast and the family business. “I did travel a bit, got away from it all for a few of those formative years,” he says. “After living in Sydney and Melbourne, it really is a fantastic place to live and bring up children.” He’s now firmly entrenched in the Gold Coast lifestyle, and can often be found going for an early surf at the north end beaches before heading into work.

“I’ve done my time. I’ve driven trucks and cleaned floors, so nowadays I’ll either go for a surf or come straight into work at 5 or 6 o’clock, and then its either in the bakehouse or trying to get around to shops and seeing management,” he says.

Streusel slice originally a European delicacy, the locals of the Gold Coast soon flocked to Goldsteins for these sweet treats (image credit: @goldsteins_bakeshop)
Their award-winning pies are a must try! (image credit: @goldsteins_bakeshop)
Danish one of the many sweet treats you can find at Goldsteins (image credit: @goldsteins_bakeshop)

Goldsteins has had to move with the times to adapt to fierce competition in the bread market from the large bakery chains and supermarkets. “We were a massive bread shop. The business has had to evolve. We’re known for all our cakes, as a traditional-style bakery, and special order birthday and wedding cakes, muffins. We’ve evolved into a bakery café with that real sit-down element.”

And they’ve also embraced and become famous for that most beloved of Australian baked goods, the meat pie, winning four awards at the 2012 Great Australian Pie Competition and gold in 2015 at the Great Australian Sausage Roll Competition.

“We’re just work on making consistent quality product, not much has changed from that ethos,” says Joshua. “We’re sticking to our niche market, just moving with the times, having a bit more of a range. It’s just been recognising when changes are happening, figuring out where our place was going to be.”

Goldsteins now has 100 staff and 12 stores, with production centralised in their expansive Molendinar bakery. “We’re in the bakery business. It’s about managing our people and making sure they’re giving good service and are as happy as they can be at work – good service and good product, finding efficiencies through operations, before we mess with product. Pies and savoury lines are the most enduring and people give us great comments for our specialty birthday cakes. We have great decorators here that do a fantastic job.”

They are currently in the process of developing a new website with an online ordering platform for their decorative cakes and party catering. “That will be a little bit of a focus moving forward, looking for those other revenue streams,” he says.

The Gold Coast Diamond Jubilee Cake promises to be an elaborate celebration of Gold Coast history and culture, as well as Goldsteins’ cake-baking and decorating skills, in a fitting tribute to both the city and the business. “We’ve been given a little bit of a brief from council, to incorporate the life-saving aspect and the evolution of the Gold Coast, from sleepy beach side town to bustling metropolis. It should come together and look really good,” says Joshua.