May the gluten-sensitive of Little Rock rejoice.
Paula Dempsey, known to those of us in the formerly-advertising-PR world as part of Dempsey Film Group, is opening Dempsey Bakery, the city’s first gluten-free bakery, at 4th and Cross Streets in Little Rock around June 1. The space, designed by Herron-Horton Architects of Little Rock, will include space for public meetings and classes.
Products will include several kinds of bread, pies, cookies and cupcakes, as well as specialty cakes which can be ordered for unique dietary needs. Breads will most likely be in the $7-8 range, and specialty cakes will likely be priced under $100.
Dempsey’s passion for gluten-free goods has come as the result of a family-wide need for those products.
“Between eight adults and five children, we are all gluten-free,” Dempsey said. “We have one grandchild whose diet is nearly vegan due to food intolerances.”
From this child’s unique needs comes the idea of Jacob’s Line, a series of baked products that are free of gluten, dairy, soy, egg, corn, rice, refined sugar and tapioca. The basic bread in this line, which Dempsey describes as “like a 12-grain from Boulevard [Bread], only a bit denser,” will likely be called Everyone’s Bread.
Other products at the new bakery may not be quite so specialized, but will certainly be gluten- and nut-free, and possibly soy-free, depending on availability of margarines the bakery might use.
“We announced the concept to a group of about 50 people a few weeks ago, with tables full of gluten-free food — burgers and hot dogs with buns, bread, cookies — people were in tears,” Dempsey said. “There are so many people who need this sort of thing, and we want to provide a place they can just walk in and buy something without worrying.”
Dempsey was a bit hesitant to declare many details about the store, since many decisions are still being made. But she has chosen Scott Wilkins as the store’s baker, who has baked for ZaZa’s Scott McGehee.
“Scott didn’t specialize in gluten-free before,” said Dempsey. “But when we talked about it, he said, ‘Just let me try. I know I can do it.’ And the products he’s developed are wonderful.”
Dempsey and Wilkins also have in development a corn-free baking powder and powdered sugar, as both usually use corn products. They are considering offering this for sale commercially.
A big part of the bakery’s business, Dempsey hopes, will be sales of gluten-free breads to local restaurants. They are even developing a sealed package for mini loaves that can be warmed in a restaurant oven and placed directly on a customer’s plate, still wrapped and protected from gluten contaminants in the kitchen.
“Restaurants are getting more and more involved in gluten-free, as they should,” she said, citing a recent seminar she attended on the topic. “It’s been documented that their business increases by as much as 30 percent, because it’s a place that whole families can go and everyone can eat.”