Food shop says goodbye to gluten

Popular demand for gluten-free foods prompted storefront

It was 17 years ago when Michelle Fenwick got really sick. She remembers calling her mother Ricki in tears and in pain.

After spending nearly two years trying to figure out exactly what was wrong, she was finally diagnosed with celiac disease. Then, she says, she discovered how slim the options were for gluten free food.

“The products that were out 15 years ago were like cardboard bread and rice,” she says. “It was terrible.”

At this point Michelle and Ricki both started making food to suit her new diet and it eventually turned into their first business venture together: a baked goods company by the name of Goodbye Gluten.

“We did custom wedding cakes, dairy free, nut free cakes and we wholesaled to other stores in the area,” Michelle says. “But everyone wanted prepared foods and other things so we decided to open a storefront.”

That shop, named GBG, opened south of Wilson Avenue at 2066 Avenue Rd. in July. It still offers their signature cakes but also has take out meals that are made in house, as well as a selection of health products, groceries and their own line of flours and starches. They also do catering and create special orders for their customers with other allergies, such as corn or tapioca intolerances.

All of their recipes are created through trial and error says Michelle, who has also started developing vegan options since she discovered she is also allergic to dairy and eggs.

In addition to being a one-stop shop for everything gluten free, Ricki says her goal is for people to come by their store and know they can bring home a good meal.

“Anyone with celiac or allergies can walk into the store and know that we understand what they need,” says Michelle, who used to spend hours on the phone with manufacturers at regular grocery stores to find out if the products they carried were safe for her to eat. “It saves a lot of time and a lot of effort.

“We’ve spent that time so that for everyone else it is convenient.”

Even though GBG still stands for goodbye gluten, one of the reasons why they chose the acronym was to appeal to a broader range of customers.

“Just because it’s gluten free, doesn’t mean that it’s tasteless,” says Ricki. “It really is delicious.”

She says she’d like to see people without any food allergies pick up some of their food for dinner or feel comfortable serving it to guests.

“People are always surprised, like oh my god this is gluten free?” adds Michelle. “People expect it to taste bad, but we worked really hard to make sure that it tastes good.

“I guess their experience with gluten free has been as poor as mine was in the beginning. It took a long time to develop the recipes, but I think we’ve succeeded.”

About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Aug 30 2011 6:09 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto