|From left, Frank, Donna and Joel have seen much success since winning the Innovator of the Year award.
The wholly gluten-free bakery, located in Uxbridge, Ont., has seen business triple since edging out the competition last year. Customers are flocking to the bakery from all over the province for their favourite goodies and breads. By the end of a typical Saturday, the equivalent of 120 loaves of bread and countless sweets have flown out the door. Donna van Veghel-Wood, along with her husband, Frank, and son Joel van Veghel, are the terrific trio behind this unique family business. Together they are on a mission to provide a safe haven for patrons suffering with celiac disease and gluten and wheat intolerances.
Frankie’s products have grown to include a variety of artisanal breads, rolls and buns, bagels, pizza dough and its trademark crisps. Tantalizing sweets also beckon from behind the counter, including brownies, butter tarts, date squares and sticky toffee pudding.
Many of these products are also served in the family’s upscale gluten-free eatery, Frankie’s Ristorante, located just down the street from the bakery. In fact, if you spend time in Uxbridge’s historical downtown core, you are bound to see Donna carrying trays of freshly baked goodies from the bakery to the restaurant. “It’s very comical watching Donna run down the hill with a tray of cupcakes in her hand,” Joel says with a grin.
“I can’t stop; I’ve got places to go!” Donna retorts, laughing. “But going back up the hill is another story. We are talking about amalgamating somehow or getting [our locations] closer together, so that’s in the works right now because we’re too far away, especially when you’re walking back and forth eight times a day!”
Donna explains that the bakery is currently working at full capacity and demand for the scrumptious goodies is still on the rise. “If we don’t get another oven then we’re going to have to go into shift work,” she says.
Baked at Frankie’s has proven that there is a market for its dedicated gluten-free facility. The real secret to its success lies in its complex gluten-free flour. “Bakers Journal has really given us the encouragement to move forward with the flour blends and really push that, because it’s the flour that allows for all of this,” Joel notes.
“Frank is always tweaking it. Even I don’t know what’s in it anymore!” Donna adds. “I really think our flour is where we’re headed, because once it’s perfected, which we think it is, you can do all your tried and true recipes from Grandma’s day. It does go cup for cup. It stirs, it beats and it bakes just like wheat flour.”
When asked if they would ever consider wholesaling their exclusive flour blend, Joel answers with a resounding yes. “I see that as a beneficial path for the company and for people in general. I love our product and not just because I’m one of the owners, but because when you taste our products, they taste like the real thing . . . I think if we could share that with other manufacturers, restaurants or bakeries that are willing to make gluten-free products with our flour, then we should go for it,” Joel explains. “As someone who can’t have wheat or gluten, it means that you can then walk into almost any restaurant, manufacturing facility or supermarket and be assured that the product you’re going to buy that says ‘gluten-free’ is also going to taste good.”
With online orders skyrocketing and in-store products being gobbled up faster than they can be made, Baked at Frankie’s is now poised to make another strategic leap forward, investing in its future and that of celiac sufferers everywhere.