Jennifer, founder of Made with Love Not Gluten bakery in Elizabethtown, is a master of her craft: gluten-free food and sweets. Her business has a loyal following with many customers returning not only for her food but also her advice. She generously took the time to discuss with us how her business started, her favorite customer interactions, and some tips for those newly diagnosed with a gluten allergy.
When were you diagnosed with celiac disease?
“I found out that I had celiacs in 2009 during my first pregnancy. I kept getting really sick and gaining weight and thought it was from my pregnancy. After the pregnancy I was still getting sick. A year after the pregnancy I was still getting 2-3 migraines a week and getting sick to my stomach. That is when they figured out that I had a gluten reaction, which led to the celiac disease. They think I had it before I was pregnant, but the pregnancy intensified the problem due to the stress on my body. It was quite the process.”
How was the transition from regular baking to gluten-free baking?
“I learned to bake from my grandmother. She would bake shoofly pies and saffron buns. Those were some of the best memories I have from growing up. When I became gluten free it was a challenge because it took me a while to find a flour that I really liked to work with. I took a three day intensive course in New York City to learn how to make my own flour. After I learned how to make the flour I liked to work with, it didn’t feel like a huge transition.”
You took a leap of faith starting this business, how did it initially start?
“I decided to stay at home when I had my second son. I decided to do some baking of my own for friends and family which only started with a couple cupcakes here and there. About three months into the baking I was much busier. I worked from the time my husband got home from work until about midnight every night. Soon after, we got our own shop. We were a little slow at first, but once an article came out in the newspaper business picked up instantly. We had to learn how to bake fast, but we learned quickly. Now we are growing out of our current space and signing a lease for a new space in Mount Joy!”
You probably get a lot of stories from your customers. Which ones stand out the most?
“We have a lot of people come in and tell their story but end with: ‘But I’m not better…’ so we help them get through that. One customer in particular came in and told us that they haven’t had a birthday cake in ten years—she started crying because she was so happy that we could make a cake for their birthday!”
What has been your biggest challenge a customer has requested?
“One of the biggest challenges I have is a customer that comes in and is allergic to a lot. She can’t eat rice, dairy, and soy.She’s mostly able to have quinoa and a few other things. I loved the challenge—my science background allows me to focus on what I can put together to make something new. I thrive on problem solving.”
How did your classes start?
“We started with our first class last spring and had our second in the fall to focus on the holidays. The last class I taught was ‘gluten free 101.’ Right now we try to do a class every other month but as we transition into the space we would like to start more diverse classes—we just don’t have the facility to do it here. Our new space will have a huge open kitchen which will make the classes much easier to host.”
What advice would you give to people dealing with this problem?
“I always tell customers to not get overwhelmed. Introduce things slowly and don’t worry about making those elaborate dishes you see in cookbooks right off the bat. You can easily substitute gluten-free pasta in your spaghetti and meatballs. Just start small and work your way up to those elaborate dishes. Otherwise, you’ll get overwhelmed.”