Friday, July 13, 2012

Gluten Free Specialty Enters It's Fifth Year in Business

We are celebrating the first day of our fifth year today! Thanks for the support everyone!

We will be celebrating with savings, celebrations and more over the months to come.  Stay tuned: (business page) (Melanie's profile)

Don't miss out!

This weeks events: 

Dietitian Meghan will be teaching a Gluten Recovery Class
this Wednesday, July 18th from 6-7pm
Location: Gluten Free Specialty Market, 2612 J Street, #1, Sacramento, CA  95816
Call 916-442-5241 to reserve a spot 

Click here for more info:

Other gluten free related events include:

Sacramento CSA Support Meeting, Sunday, July 15, 1:30 – 4:00 pm
Our speaker, Pharmacist John Richards, will discuss issues relating to Pharmaceuticals and GlutenJoin us at St. Marks UMC Meeting, 2391 St. Marks Way, Sacramento, Fireside Room (up stairs or elevator). Also featured: our usual snack fest (experienced celiacs, please bring a gluten-free snack to share, together with recipe or package ingredients for those with additional food sensitivities), vendor treats and roundtable support.

Sacramento CSA Restaurant Outing, July 18, 11:30 am
This month, we’re meeting at the Chipotle's at 5040 Auburn Blvd. (just south of Madison Avenue - if exiting from interstate 80 at Madison, travel east, turn right at College Oak, then turn sharp left onto Auburn so Chipotle's will be on your right). You can review Chipotle's allergen listing here. We'll review cross-contamination prevention procedures before we order. No rsvp necessary (but email Diane at if you want to receive a reminder).

A Note From Melanie:

If you stopped by in the month of June, you might know that we just sent out an application for a huge grant, $250,000, with Chase and Living Social.

Applying for the Chase and Living Social grant really made me look back over our last 4 years in business and made me realize what we have created as a community.  To those that have supported us the last 4 years and to everyone that is new to participating in the Gluten Free Specialty Market community, I want to share a summary of our existence.

After answering 6 questions for the grant application, we were asked what other information would you like us to know.  From this question, a brief synopsis of how the creation of the Gluten Free Specialty Market emerged. 

Melanie’s story:  
After six years of being gluten free, I was handed a wholesale catalog filled with gluten-free foods. Bored with the small selection of foods at my local grocery stores and annoyed at having to travel to multiple stores just to make one meal, I decided to start a web store. I wanted more options at wholesale prices. Earlier experience managing a retail store for three years gave me the confidence that I could make this happen.
I set up meetings with field experts and attended Small Business Association (SBA) workshops which encouraged me to be creative. Banks weren’t loaning money to start ups without experience. With encouragement of the local Celiac Sprue Association group (Diane Craig and Joan Leforestier)  Joan Leforestier) and my family, I used my savings and rented a hole in the wall office space necessary to order food products. I completed the distributors required checklist and submitted my first distribution account application.  At 6 weeks I was out of money.  I had a food distribution account and a business partner but my 3 month lease had been pulled. Upset regarding the number of people who arrived to visit me, my landlord was upset. I negotiated a sampling event in the parking lot in exchange for moving out early.

About a month later, I had moved into a new space consisting of 400 square feet and a had list of gluten free contacts from my tasting. The store was filled with 6 shelves and a fridge and I had a phone, an internet connection and a business license. Since my budget was meager, I opened my doors to the public and began to call and contact everyone on my list to let them know we were open for business.

From the beginning to the present day, the business has consisted of challenge after challenge and creative solution after creative solution. If it weren’t for a community of locals cheering the way forward, the problems faced may have halted the business from ever existing. The store was literally built with blood, sweat and tears. Some problems we faced were relatively simple like acquiring shelving and fridges. Other problems were more complex.

 How is your business involved with the community you serve?

When we opened in 2008, very few options existed in the Sacramento area for individuals with dietary challenges. Store owners, Melanie and Chris, have invested in the community by creating and compiling educational materials for the local community regarding: gluten (what it is), food allergies and celiac disease. With degrees in research from both California State University Sacramento and Oxford Brookes University, UK, Melanie is focused on compiling and sharing scholarly information not only with her customers, but with the community at large. In addition to authoring a monthly article for Health and Fitness magazine, she provides the public with hand-outs sheets on topics like ‘starting a gluten free diet’ and ‘dining out’. Chris, a former high school teacher, offers Melanie guidance on how to present information effectively and efficiently. Both Melanie and Chris are focused on educating the public about health and wellness.  Monthly classes that are often hosted at the Gluten Free Specialty Market by health practitioners like Meghan O’ Hara, a local dietitian with Celiac Disease. Meghan O’ Hara regularly teaches a gluten free class for beginners and a class on ‘low sugar’ and ‘sugar free’ meal planning. In July, she will be starting a new class on ‘healing the gut’ a topic that is explored by gastro-neurologists, but is often neglected in consultations with dietitians. All classes are provided free of charge as a public community service.  Knowledge has the power to transform a community and our market in midtown Sacramento serves one of the most diverse and fastest growing communities of gluten free awareness in the country.

In addition to supporting the growth of safe gluten free menu options in the local community, our market encourages local residents to support gluten-free establishments by providing regional bakery options in one central location. Some of our local options include: Mariposa Bakery from Oakland, Azna Bakery from Cameron Park, Crave Bakery from San Franciso, Zest Bakery from San Carlos, Miglet’s Bakery from Danville, Kerry’s Sweet Decadence from Livermore, 7 Sisters from Citrus Heights and Gluten Free Gourmet from Campbell. We even offer special order items like birthday and anniversary cakes for special occasions from bakeries like Miglet’s, Azna and Zest.

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