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Bakery brings gluten-free love to Main Street

Gluten-free doesn't mean glutton-free.

Jennifer Love Williams wants the whole of Longmont to know that gluten-free doesn’t mean glutton-free.

“Gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s a diet food, we still use butter, we still use sugar,” Williams said. “It just means we use flours that don’t contain gluten proteins.”

Though other bakeries and restaurants in town have gluten-free offerings, Love’s Bakery is the only retail bakery in Longmont 100% dedicated to a gluten-free kitchen. 

“Jennifer’s baked goods are extremely good, especially the cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies,” said Emily Collins, owner of JavaStop. “Some of the other gluten-free places we’ve tried were definitely not good, but hers are outstanding. We’re happy to sell them here.”

Gluten-free baking was a personal need for Williams. After getting diagnosed with celiac disease more than a decade ago, she started learning gluten-free baking herself. Around 2014, Williams met her former business partner, Morgan Dalton. Both Williams and Dalton had a family legacy of baking and pastry shops, so it seemed fortuitous. Aime’s Love was born of a need and desire to produce a delicious and high-quality gluten-free product that everyone would enjoy.

Celiac disease, which is not the same thing as a gluten-intolerance, is an inherited auto-immune disease, according to research from the University of Chicago. Gluten is a protein commonly found in wheat, rye and barley, and those afflicted with the disorder lack the ability to properly digest the gluten proteins. Symptoms can vary between patients, but often include extreme gastrointestinal distress, bloating, migraines, fatigue and joint pain similar to rheumatic arthritis.

Williams said after a series of wrong diagnoses for migraines and fatigue, a specialist suggested it could be celiac disorder. After some adjustments to her diet, including completely eliminating gluten, Williams said she hadn’t realized just how unhealthy she’d been.

“After more than thirty days without gluten, my energy just skyrocketed,” Williams said. “I was suffering and I didn’t even know it, because it wasn’t as severe as some celiac cases.”

Williams said the thing she misses the most is New York-style pizza, a dough that’s hard to replicate using gluten-free flours due to its elasticity. In a moment of weakness, Williams remembered going to have a slice a few years after her diagnosis.

“There was a great place in town here years ago, and I decided to go ahead and have a slice,” Williams recalled. “My body knocked me out. I fell asleep at the table halfway through the slice, like my body was going to stop me if I wouldn’t stop myself. Since then I haven’t had gluten at all.”

Williams and Dalton put their heads together to make the best possible product, experimenting with different blends of flours to produce the best cakes, cookies and pastries.

"We took our favorite standard recipes and modified them, and we have fifteen different flour blends for our goods,” Williams said. “There were definitely some missteps and failed experiments. We kept trying until it could pass a celiac and non-celiac taste test.”

Teaching has become a key part of Williams’ business, particularly when it comes to her staff. 

“It’s really fun here. When Jennifer hired me, I didn’t have any baking experience but she was willing to teach me everything,” said Love’s Bakery employee Renata Reinsmith.

In 2019, Dalton left the business. Right around the same time, Williams had the opportunity to purchase the building from the landlord outright. The building at 331 Main Street is a piece of Longmont history, where J.C. Penney first opened his failed meat market

The upper floor of the building was used for office space at the time, helping supplement building income for the mortgage. Unfortunately, not long after Williams bought the property, the COVID pandemic hit the US. 

“My mortgage went up when I took over the building, and my expenses doubled when people stopped renting upstairs,” Williams said. “I have extreme gratitude for our customers that helped carry us through COVID.”

Williams acknowledged that having a loyal following, as well as catering to specific dietary needs, helped get them through the pandemic. Living with celiac disease made Williams take safety protocols even more seriously during the pandemic as well.

“There were a number of people that weren’t happy that I enforced mask-wearing and everything else. A lot of my customers have autoimmune diseases,” Williams said. “I needed to protect my customers, and my employees too.”

Love’s Bakery has still restricted indoor dining, and enforces masks while inside the bakery until all of her staff and their family can be fully vaccinated.

As vaccine rollout progresses and the world begins to open up, Williams is ready for it. Wedding cake orders and event catering have already started to pick up for the bakery. Predicting that office space would be hard to sell after much of the community got used to working from home, she set to work renovating the upper floors so that they could be used for apartments. 

Williams and her staff invite any one, whether they are gluten-free or not, to come in and try the surplus of baked goods on offer.


 

Matt Maenpaa

About the Author: Matt Maenpaa

An avid writer, editor and photographer, Matt strives for compassion and integrity.
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