By Charles Schelle The Bradenton Herald.
The couple that bakes together, stays together.
Bradenton couple Jenn and Colin Ellsworth have become closer since the two went on a necessary journey beginning five years ago to figure out what Jenn could eat after being diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease.
Jenn's allergies included corn, soy, gluten, refined sugar and dairy products, which could affect her thyroid gland. To play it safe, they went legume-free and grain-free, too.
"We wanted food that Jenn could eat and wouldn't make her sick," Ellsworth said. When company came over, they tested the new recipes for dinner and snacks using gluten free and Paleo Diet recipes, which doesn't use processed foods and tries to use foods that are as natural as possible.
Encouraged by their friends who wanted more food and offered to pay, the two dove in spatula first. The result became Ugg's Bakery, which takes advantage of the Florida Cottage Food Law, operating out of their small apartment for now until they move into a home with a remodeled kitchen.
Colin decided to play off of the "caveman diet" nickname given to the Paleo diet for their bakery. Colin thought, what would you name a caveman? "Ugg."
"Eat like a caveman, feel like a rock star," Colin said.
And even cavemen need dessert. The bakery offers macaroons, chocolate chip cookies with orange zest and their top-selling waffles -- all with their healthful substitutions and twists.
"It's more of a lifestyle versus a diet because you just can't eat that stuff, at least for us," Colin said. "Some people choose it as a way to get healthier."
The Ellsworths moved from Grand Rapids, Mich., four years ago when It Works! Global transferred Colin to its Palmetto headquarters for supply management and logistics.
Jenn also does work with vintage items on the side and works part-time at Manasota SOLVE, which helps pregnant women.
"I was with a naturopath in Michigan, then we moved here and things kinda went backwards because you move and you stress eat and you don't know people," Jenn said. "I really got caught up in that, but he's really been like my savior when it comes to food."
Colin, whose parents were bakers, has a passion for making food from scratch. Jenn's mom is also a baker. Still, she leaves the cooking up to him.
The two explored Paleo Diet blogs and forums where people trade recipe ideas to gain some inspiration for recipes.
"We'll even see non-Paleo recipes we like and take out everything we can't have and throw in our substitutions," he said.
The food's been a hit so far with CrossFit gym Fit Crew and their church, which has ordered their sandwich bread for communion services.
As much as the Ellsworths love their jobs, they're smitten with the American Dream, being their own bosses and having their own home with their baby boy. They want to take the bakery to the next level, but are starting small using the Florida Cottage Foods law.
"We wanted something that didn't require a whole lot of investment in case it flopped," Colin said, laughing. "We want the American Dream, but we don't want to belly flop right out of the gate."
The law is almost like a Paleo diet of retail. No online retail sales, no pre-paid orders, no industrial kitchen equipment, no health inspections and no shipping. Their family in Michigan can't even buy their baked goods unless they show up to their front door with cash in hand.
The bakery still has to label all products with ingredients, allergens, net weight/volume, name and address of bakery, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The couple must package the food in their home and are allowed to come to a farmers market to sell their goods.
"As long as everything is packaged here in our home kitchen, then we can take it out and sell it as long as it's face-to-face," Colin said.
They can accept a message either via Facebook.com/UggsBakeryBradentonFL, or emailing [email protected] or calling 616-485-2456 with a request or inquiry. (The number is expected to change soon to a local number, Jenn said.)
"The nice thing is if we have leftovers, we eat them," Colin said.
A blog they are creating, uggsbakery.blogspot.com, is being developed to show off the products. They want that site to eventually become a cookbook where Jenn and Colin can help people navigate sensitive diets.
"We'll share some recipes, but more or less it's dinner ideas and how we get through lunches, dinners and breakfasts," Jenn said.
The Ellsworth are readying to close on a house this month, where they'll have plenty more space to shake and bake.
The first project will be renovating the kitchen to have large, granite countertops, double ovens and an induction cooking top. "We got the biggest home appliances we could without going industrial," Colin said.
Yet, no matter how successful they get, gross sales can't surpass $15,000 annually. So the couple has their sights on the next big dream, hoping to open their own coffee shop and bakery in Bradenton or Palmetto, similar to the mold of Perq Coffee Bar in Sarasota and MadCap Coffee Co., in Grand Rapids, Mich., where the company roasts their own beans and brews coffee the old-fashioned way.
"We're definitely a long way away from that," Colin said. "That would be the ultimate dream."
But for now, the dream is still about having good, healthy food.
"I know how hard I struggle with it, so I want to help other people and provide things they can eat," Jenn said.