James Calder, a Scottish baker emigrated to South Australia in December 1852 and by 1855 had set up a bakery and confectionery business at 130 Rundle Street. By the mid-1860s he was successful enough to build the City Steam Biscuit Factory in Twin Street (demolished in 2013) as well as open another shop at what was then 43 Rundle Street. His nephew, John Balfour, had joined the business and in 1877 and the company name was changed from James Calder to Calder and Balfour.
In time the company became a household name throughout South Australia. The firm outgrew its Twin Street factory and moved to a larger newly built factory in Cardwell Street in the early 1890s. In the early 1900s, Balfour’s amalgamated with one of its competitors, Bricknall and Company Limited.
The company’s expansion in the 1890s coincided with an economic recession and some hard times followed. However, Elizabeth Balfour, James’ wife, salvaged the finances by opening a restaurant at 136 Rundle Street. Later, in 1900-1, her son JG and son- in-law Charles Wauchope became partners and the company name was changed to E. Balfour and Company. At this time its retail premises were moved to 74 Rundle Street (now known as 72). Several partnership changes occurred soon after or at the turn of the century and by 1924 the company was known as Balfour Wauchope Ltd.
By the 1920s, and until well into the 1950s, Balfour’s bakeries and its cakes were a South Australian institution. The Balfour’s Cafe in Rundle Street was described in 1929 as one of “the” lunch spots in Adelaide. According to historian Rob Linn, Balfour’s Cafes “breathed a gracious but relaxed atmosphere which suited the nature of Adelaide society at that time”, and until well after World War II. The Rundle Street shop was sold by Balfour’s in 1989, and the cafe function closed prior to that. The building is now used to operate a retail business.
The company continues to be one of the state’s largest and best-known bakery brands. It was purchased in 2008 by South Australian-based national company San Remo Macaroni Company. The Balfours bakery is now located in Dudley Park.