Greg Franklin, owner of Oma's Bakeshop, knew there was a need in the community for fresh, gluten-free products.
He remembers the stories his gluten-intolerant customers told him. One in particular stood out for Franklin: "I haven't had a birthday cake in 10 years."
That is a big reason why Franklin opened Oma's Gluten-Free Bakeshop on Roblin Boulevard.
While Franklin isn't celiac or gluten-intolerant, he wanted to offer those afflicted with the ailment more than rice bread.
"I wanted it so a celiac person could come to a bakery any day of the week and buy a muffin," says Franklin.
At Oma's, handmade, fresh, gluten-free turtle brownies and cream puffs are fair game for people with celiac disease and those with a gluten-intolerance. Cinnamon buns, lemon coconut slices and chocolate logs are just a start to the list of tantalizing gluten-free items Oma's offers its clientele.
Oma's also offers a local favourite: chocolate éclairs.
"I never thought I would have an éclair," says head baker, Jennifer Paul, noting how difficult they were initially to make.
The gluten-free éclair tastes very similar to its counterpart. The only difference is the flour used in the celiac-safe version is a rice-flour mixture, which results in a lighter éclair, which is far less greasy. One might never know it's gluten-free unless told.
Oma's offers specialty gluten-free tortes, perfect for showers or anniversaries.
Paul, known as "Barb" to her co-workers, says people are "completely floored when we can do a torte."
The bakeshop takes orders for gluten-free wedding cakes. Recently she made one out of square red velvet cupcakes.
The location in Charleswood opened last May, but not until after the staff took extra precautions to ensure there was little chance of cross-contamination.
"We cleaned for two weeks," says Franklin. "It was an actual bakery before, flour was in everything."
Another unique aspect of Oma's is that it shares the location with Oma's bakeshop, which has another location on Henderson Highway. Oma's isn't gluten-free, but staff take extra care to ensure products that contain gluten make it into the bakery without compromising the integrity of the gluten-free products.
Everything gluten-free is made in Oma's kitchen and goes straight to the front while products that contain gluten are baked at the Henderson Highway location. These products are placed directly on the front shelves, and never come near Oma's kitchen.
Word of the new bakeshop is spreading through the community. Customer Brent Byrd was at Oma's buying gluten-free treats for his 16-month-old daughter, who is gluten-intolerant.
"We had her tested. She wasn't celiac, but gluten-intolerant." Byrd says it's fantastic to have a gluten-free bakeshop in the community.
"It's so convenient," Byrd says "I can buy some things for my wife and daughter, and other things for myself."
People seeking gluten-free baked goods make up 25 per cent of the combined bakeshop's business. Gluten-free isn't just for celiacs, though.
Paul noted how one customer changed her diet to gluten-free while she was pregnant, and others simple prefer the gluten-free products -- as does Paul, who bakes every gluten-free product on the shelf from scratch.
"If I like it, it has to be pretty good," she says.
Coming up with new and innovative products can be challenging, Paul says. Her next hurdle is a multiseed bread, and the much sought after pumpernickel.
She has someone who's celiac sample her pumpernickel prototypes to let her know when it's ready to hit the shelves.
While Oma's makes specialty breads such a fogasa and flax, bread isn't Franklin's top priority. He says everybody has bread, and it's not "unique."
Instead, Franklin is happy to provide customers with treats they thought they couldn't have again, such as Hermit cookies and New York slice.
"Let the big boys do (bread). I'd much rather make you a chocolate éclair."
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a medical condition where part of the small intestine is damaged by gluten, found primary in wheat products. This inhibits the body from absorbing nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
What type of food contain gluten?
Gluten is in almost everything processed. The most obvious are bread, muffins and donuts. However, other products such as salad dressing, Hoisin sauce and baking powder can also contain gluten.
What is gluten exactly?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. In flour, it's the sticky substance that helps with binding.
What are symptoms of celiac or gluten intolerance?
Common symptoms are anemia, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, cramps and bloating, irritability. Although some or all of these symptoms occur in celiac disease, some can also occur in many other diseases more common than celiac disease.
In other cases, sufferers from gluten-intolerance develop an intense burning and itching rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. The intestinal symptoms of celiac disease may or may not appear in dermatitis herpetiformis.
-- Source: http://www.celiac.ca
Oma's Gluten Free bakeshop:
Location: 3416 Roblin Blvd
Owner: Greg Franklin
Baker: Jennifer "Barb" Paul
Chocolate Éclair - $2.59
New York Slice - $1.25
Turtle Brownie - $1.25
Cream Puff - $2.29