By Vic Dolcourt

This month I’m checking in with entrepreneurs we featured in our “Local Company Profiles” – bakery owners, a cookbook author and the owner of a gluten-free and organic certified rental kitchen – all dedicated supporters of our community and business success stories. I’ve reached out to discover what’s new with our “alumnae” and ask their advice for prospective entrepreneurs who are considering entering the gluten-free scene.

Flour Craft Bakery

Owner: Heather Hardcastle


Walnut Frangipane Tart

Flour Craft Bakery’s 100% gluten-free menu of fresh-baked items from its San Anselmo retail location nestled in Marin County continues to grow with additional bread varieties, morning pastries, sweet treats, pies and galettes, cupcakes and custom layer cakes. Savory breakfast and lunch items, including sandwiches, quiche and salads, are also served in the bakery. Flour Craft baked goods are available at the year round San Rafael Farmers’ Market and a number of market and restaurant locations in the Bay Area.

One of the biggest changes however, is the bakery’s granola line. Their two original flavors (Maple Pecan and Cranberry Almond) are available at Northern California Whole Foods markets and dozens of independent grocers. The newest addition is Raisin Walnut Cacao Nib, which is available online, at the bakery and through local retailers, and is coming to Whole Foods Markets early in 2016.

Heather’s advice for prospective entrepreneurs: “Make sure your offer something that is uniquely you. With so many choices these days being just gluten-free is not enough. Your customers will expect unique offerings with exceptional taste and made from high quality ingredients.”

The Family Chef

Owner: Amy Fothergill

FamilyChef quiche

Amy’s quiche with potato crust

Our September 2013 article featured Amy’s self-published new cookbook, The Warm Kitchen. Since then, the cookbook has gone into its second printing and Amy has traveled across the country on book tours. The book is available on Amazon (note the 5-star rating) or you can get a personalized and signed copy, postage paid, directly from Amy. In addition to being an author, Amy is a cooking instructor, consultant and blogger who contributes recipe articles to our website.

What is Amy currently up to? “I’ve been asked to write a paleo cookbook, but what I really want to do now is sell more copies of The Warm Kitchen. Beyond that I’m devoting time to feet-on-the-street advocacy by organizing events for gluten-free kids in the Bay Area. I see a real need for children to connect with one another socially through events where the food is safe and the activities are fun.” (Kids’ events Amy is organizing with other parents can be found on the new Peninsula GFF (Gluten Free Friends) Facebook page and our Events Calendar.)

Amy’s advice for entering the gluten-free space: “The gluten-free market is saturated with products and cookbooks. If you have an idea for a product, make sure it’s different. There are too many of the same flour blends, frozen pizzas, and pancake and brownie mixes. Pay attention to the market trends. I do think people want more pre-made gluten-free items, but whatever you make has to be unique. Still my attitude is do what you love and the rest will fall into place.”

Certified Kitchens

Owner: Marie Banis

Certified Kitchens cookiesCertified Kitchens operates the Bay Area’s only rental kitchen complex that has been certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization and organic by California Certified Organic Farmers. Located in Berkeley, they work with packaged food producers, caterers, private chefs, event planners, restaurants and food trucks. Marie and her kitchen-designer husband, Tom, love great cooking and want to help their clients. Since we first featured Certified Kitchens at its opening in an article two years ago, its client base has grown and diversified; check out its Facebook photos of clients, cooking camps for kids and a 2015 award from the City of Berkeley.

Marie’s reflections on two years of operation: “This has been such a wonderful and rewarding experience.  I’m thrilled all of these gluten-free and organic products come from my kitchen renters. Our renters have so many success stories, and they appreciate being able to use our gluten-free and organic processes to ensure that their products are clean and wholesome. That allows them to concentrate on quality, originality and marketing. I’m happy to be a part of their success. As far as the three kitchens themselves, we had a business concept in mind, and it has worked extremely well during our first two years. We have made very few changes to the concept.”

Liberty-5 Baking Company

Owner: Jenn Maly

Liberty-5 Jenn Maly

Jenn Maly

It’s been a good two years for Liberty-5 Baking Company in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. Jenn’s one-woman operation, profiled in our 2013 article, has moved from selling bread at a farmers’ market to offering four types of loaf bread, sandwich and hamburger buns, seeded boule, and seeded baguettes at 10 grocery stores and 26 restaurants and delis in Sonoma County. She’s looking to further expand distribution to Marin and San Francisco.

Jenn would also like to expand her product line to include shelf-stable crostini. “Local restaurants turn my seeded baguettes into crostini, and I get regular requests from my bread customers for these,” said Jenn. “I am considering how to produce them and place them in grocery stores.”

“In creating my line of breads,” Jenn said, “I wanted to make better tasting and textured gluten-free bread than what was available in markets. My loaves are much closer to what consumers consider standard size. I’m not the only person who has ordered a sandwich from a deli, only to find four slices of tiny gluten-free bread, while others in my party have two slices of wheat bread.”

Jenn’s inspiration: “I bake because it’s what I love.  It is rewarding to hear from customers who thank me for making my bread because they enjoy it so much.  That is exactly why I started baking,”

Imagine It Bakery

Owner: Jolynn Spinelli and Tracy Horton

Imagine It Bread

French Bread. Photo: Colin Price

Imagine It Bakery headlines its products as allergy friendly – free from wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds. When we featured Imagine It in a 2013 article, the Santa Clara bakery’s focus was on healthy treats that reduce or eliminate the rice and starches common in gluten-free baked goods and rely instead on alternative grains and legumes with higher protein and fiber. The focus on health and allergen-free hasn’t changed, but the line has expanded. Jolynn said, “In the past we concentrated on the sweet side: cookies, muffins and granola. Now there is something new: savories! We’ve added sourdough baguettes, whole grain white bread, whole grain buckwheat bread and pizza crust.”

“We continue to sell at three farmers’ markets: Santa Clara and Willow Glen on Saturdays and Campbell on Sundays,” said Jolynn. “The other side of our business is artisan coffee roasting, the Cosmic Coffee Company. Carlos, my husband and business partner, has been steadily building a tasting bar so we can have a place to showcase our coffee and bakery products in our Santa Clara baking location.” The products are made in a dedicated kitchen and available by preorder for pick up and at a several eateries and farmers’ markets in the South Bay.

Jolynn describes Imagine It’s secrets to success: “The most important things are quality, consistency and integrity. People need to be able to count on you and your product. If you find yourself saying something like ‘that’s good enough,’ it probably isn’t.”