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CRAVING locally made homestyle baked goods? You’re in luck.
There’s an expansion of independent bakeries in Columbus, and the farmers markets are partly responsible, said local business owners and market organizers.
“The number of vendors offering baked goods has definitely grown over the years,” said Becky Church, Columbus Farmers Market chairwoman. “It is beneficial for the community for people who start small in their kitchens, move to the farmers market, then open their own business.”
Church said about a quarter of the market’s typical 100 regular vendors offer baked goods at the Saturday morning venue.
Among those vendors are Linda and Larry VanDeWege, who are set to open Naturalee Bakery at 903 Washington St. this month. When Linda VanDeWege realized local demand for gluten-free products, she couldn’t ignore it.
“Had it not been for the farmers market, we probably wouldn’t be doing this,” Linda VanDeWege said. “Originally, I knew there was interest in my granola, but I didn’t know the gluten-free products were in such demand.”
Opening a brick-and-mortar storefront has proven a bit more challenging than the VanDeWeges anticipated. Between operating their booth at the farmers market and finding the time, strength and energy to open their gluten-free bakery, Linda VanDeWege said it’s been an involved process.
“It’s a balancing act,” she said.
The farmers markets essentially serve as business incubators, said Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.
“People who have a notion to begin a business venture can test their products in a relatively safe environment that offers little risk,” Frey said. “Building a following is a great opportunity.”
The VanDeWeges aren’t the only proprietors who have recognized a need and are taking steps to fulfill customer demand year-round.
When Jay and Karen Cole purchased Gramz Bakery on Washington Street in July, they immediately had a vision of returning the business to a full-service bakery.
The Coles’ booth, The Hen House, had been a regular at the farmers market for more than a year, offering a variety of goat-based dairy products and free-range eggs. But Jay Cole said it was their nearly 15-year career running Cole Catering that fueled their interest in purchasing Gramz.
“The biggest challenge is finding out the needs of the customers and meeting it,” Jay Cole said. “That’s what we’re investigating now.”
During the past month, the Coles have added a Starbucks-style coffee bar, including brewed coffees, lattes and espresso. But coffee isn’t the only new addition.
“We’ll be offering a breakfast line,” Jay Cole said. “We’re going to add homemade baked doughnuts and bagels.”
In time, Gramz will also serve a variety of specialty breads, cakes and pies, Jay Cole said.
But downtown isn’t the only area with rising bakery interest.
Joan Edwards, of Greenwood, opened Addison Bakehouse at 1702 Pennsylvania St. in July.
The former dental hygienist left her career in the medical field in 2011 to pursue her passion for baking. And she’s brought that passion back to her hometown.
“I am a firm believer that everyone needs an indulgence,” Edwards said. “If you splurge, you should do so on something that’s worth it.”
What makes the Addison Bakehouse stand out is it’s more than a bakery, Edwards said. In addition to delicious desserts, including caramel-brownie cheesecake and dark chocolate cake, the Addison offers a variety of lunch and dinner items.
“Everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the dressing soups, sides, main courses and desserts,” Edwards said.
Columbus is growing faster than the rest of the region when it comes to business; therefore, there’s more confidence here to take that leap, Frey said.
“We continue to see people starting new ventures, expanding or identifying Columbus as a market they want to expand into,” Frey said. “They see opportunities here.”
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