small businesses

San Diego-Based Gluten-Free Bakery Opens Shop at Start of Pandemic, Then Thrives

“When we officially went into lockdown, for the next three days, our phone rang off the hook," said Roanna Canete, the owner of The Gluten Free Baking Company in North Park

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The Gluten Free Baking Company has been working behind the scenes to provide wholesale items to local eateries since 2015. Then in early 2020, the company took a leap and opened a retail store in North Park.

The goal of the new shop was for Roanna Canete, the company’s owner, and her team to connect with the community and sell treats and essential goods to people directly.

However, when Canete opened the new storefront in early 2020, she was already keeping an eye on a looming virus referred to as "COVID-19." It had not yet caused restrictions here, but it was forcing shut downs in other countries and starting to raise concern.

“I used to live in Italy and my friends kept telling me, ‘Hey this is coming, this is coming, you need to be safe,’” Canete said.

Less than one week before coronavirus pandemic restrictions began in San Diego County, Canete shared that her team was being proactive and offering gloves and hand sanitizer for customers at a cupcake decorating event, in case anyone was concerned and asked if they had protocol in place.

Fast-forward to the middle of March 2020, this proved to be smart.

Businesses began to close, people were sent to work from home and kids were no longer in school-- but for the new gluten-free shop, this was only the beginning.

“When we officially went into lockdown, for the next three days, our phone rang off the hook,” Canete said. “The question time and time again was, ‘Are you guys open? Are you going to open? Are you staying open?'”

Canete explained that the small shop was able to help fulfill a critical need for people who are not able to consume gluten or dairy, especially when grocery store shelves were empty.

“It was really clear to us that people were relying on us...,” Canete said. “People were driving from everywhere, North County, they would say, ‘I’ve been in the car for 45 minutes just to get this, this and this.'”

Throughout the height of the pandemic, the shop stepped up their production of bread and also began offering more vegan choices, after a direct request from customers.

Even though grocery store shelves are now more stocked than they were last year, Canete hopes to continue providing for customers during difficult times, but also to be there for lighthearted, celebratory moments.

“Yeah, I go to work every day and I make donuts, I mean, who doesn’t love that?” Canete said. “But at the same time my team and I really take it seriously that we’re here to make your life fun and amazing and safe.”

The Gluten Free Baking Company offers essential goods, to-go treats, like cupcakes and cookies, and custom orders.

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