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Bake Me Happy Adds Gluten-Free Grocery

Susan Post Susan Post Bake Me Happy Adds Gluten-Free GroceryPhoto by Lauren Sega.
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Gluten-free pretzel rods! Gluten-free pasta! Gluten-free seltzers and wines! Bake Me Happy has turned the seating area from their Merion Village coffee shop and bakery into the gluten-free bodega of their dreams.

Adding a grocery component wasn’t necessarily on the radar for Bake Me Happy, but then 2020 happened. Co-Owner Letha Pugh says the bakery completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program late last year. During the program, they ideated with other businesses about ways to boost their operations, including looking for new sources of revenue.

As a coffee shop, Bake Me Happy could have 10 people post up all day and order one dessert and one coffee. When the dine-in shutdown put a stop even to that, Letha thought, “How could we utilize that space to help us increase our revenue?”

Instead of a big-box grocer that might have some gluten-free items spread across the store, the goal with the new bodega is a one-stop shop of hard-to-find items, as well as some owner favorites.

Co-Owner Wendy Miller Pugh and some of the other gluten-free staff curated the selection that spans sweets to snacks to frozen items to drinks and more.

The shop also offers a large selection of beverages, many of them from other local businesses. Shoppers will find sparkling CBD beverages W*nder and Queen City Hemp, Sprtiz Tea, Seventh Son’s Kitty Paw and Thunderkiss Cold Brew.

In the eats department, other locals include North Country Charcuterie, Lopaus Point Waffles, Toasted Oat Granola and Cincinnati-based Sonny Marie’s breads.

Image via Bake Me Happy

Wendy says the reception to the shop has been great so far. There are customers that have expressed how much they miss being able to sit and have a cup of coffee, but the health and safety of both customers and employees has to come first.

“We all are missing things that we used to love,” Wendy says.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Bake Me Happy has tried to stay ahead of the curve in taking precautions and addressing safety concerns. With a nursing background, as Letha saw events like the Arnold and SXSW getting canceled, she started communicating with their staff early and often about her understanding of the situation. She believes it helped to eliminate their employees’ anxiety and offer reassurance they were taking the situation seriously.

When the dine-in shutdown did arrive, Bake Me Happy was also able to quickly pivot to online sales. Within 48 hours, their array of treats were available through their website for online ordering and contactless pickup.

Customers can order treats online from a selection available for same-day pickup, or pre-order their favorites with 72 hours notice. Wendy says it’s changed their dynamic some. Gone are the weekend lines for special events and the hopes of getting taste buds on a limited-run treat. However, online pre-orders have increased customer satisfaction as customers can get exactly what they want and not miss out.

Overall, it’s led to an increase in their retail business. Which is important as their robust wholesale program, that even included football Saturdays at Ohio Stadium, has taken a major hit.

The bakery has made the most of the pandemic in other ways as well.

“This is a hard time and it has pushed everybody to the edge, but we have also been able to tap away at a bit of silver lining in all of this,” Letha says. “It’s helped us to perfect some processes that we probably would have put off for awhile.”

Letha and Wendy also know what elements of their COVID pivots will stick around, even after things return to normal, whatever that may look like. While bringing back seating, and even adding a patio, are in the plans, online pre-orders and the gluten-free retail component will continue to be a part of Bake Me Happy.

Shoppers can visit Bake Me Happy’s gluten-free bodega at 106 E. Moler St. from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Customers can pick up treats and shop in-person, or for streamlined, contactless pickup, pre-order online through Bake Me Happy’s website.

For more information, visit bakemehappygf.com.

Images via Bake Me Happy
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