You know what they say: Baking is a science, which I think is why the hazmat crew is still in my kitchen. Regardless, an actual trained scientist is opening a bakery in Downtown Lawrence that likely will grab the attention of allergy sufferers.
Topeka-based Shana Cake has signed a deal to open at 914 Massachusetts St. Work is underway and owner Kelly Dempewolf hopes to have the store open by mid-April.
Some of you may remember Shana Cake and Dempewolf from the Lawrence Farmers Market. Dempewolf began selling a host of gluten-free bakery goods at the Farmers Market in the summer of 2015. She found there was a strong market for the gluten-free products and soon opened a storefront in Topeka. When the Downtown Lawrence space became available, she jumped at the chance to expand.
“We know that Lawrence is a great market for what we do,” Dempewolf said.
What the store does today goes beyond gluten-free products. The store now makes “allergy-friendly” products, which means everything in the store is free of gluten, dairy, corn, soy, nuts, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and GMOs. Many of the products also can be made egg-free.
If I limited my ingredient list to that degree, I would have to use even more sawdust than normal for my baking. But, then again, as a court order clearly states, I am not a scientist. Dempewolf, however, is. She was a high school chemistry teacher, wrote a high school textbook on the subject, and ended up getting her doctorate in science education. She said the chemistry background has been a key to producing gluten-free products that actually are good to eat.
“This is edible chemistry,” she said. “When you take ingredients out, you have to know what they do so you can put an appropriate ingredient back in.”
Chemistry is only one of the keys, though. Her kids are another. The store is named after 11-year old daughter, Shana, who has a gluten allergy. The huge number of products the store bakes (more on those in a moment) are attributable to Shana.
“Our menu is basically anything my daughter has asked for,” Dempewolf said.
Dempewolf’s 14-year old son, however, also plays a role. He has no food allergies, and no reservations about telling his mother that she has missed the mark with a recipe.
“I give it to my 14-year old son, and if he likes it, it has passed the test and is ready to go,” Dempewolf said.
Plenty of items have passed the test. The bakery has all the cupcakes, cookies, and muffins that you would expect to see at a bakery. The bakery case usually has eight to 10 flavors of cupcakes and a few speciality treats such as the dairy-free version of a banana split, which includes banana cake with chocolate ganache, strawberries and whipped topping. Donuts also are among the hard to find items for some allergy sufferers.
“Donuts are something people in come and say “I haven’t had a donut forever,’” she said.
But the bakery ventures outside of the realm of sweet treats too. Dempewolf said gluten allergy sufferers long have complained finding good gluten-free bread is a chore. The bakery’s case always includes sandwich bread. The shop also makes pizza crusts, pie crusts, spaghetti noodles, hamburger and hot dog buns, dinner rolls, frozen waffles ready for the toaster oven, and several other items. The store also does a quite a few special orders, she said.
Look for another scientist to be involved in the Lawrence venture once it opens next month. Dempewolf’s mother is a retired biochemist with a Ph.D., and she will be assisting in running the Lawrence store.
If you are still having a hard time picturing where the store will be located, it is in the former home of Billy Vanilly, another Topeka-based bakery that set up shop in Lawrence. Dempewolf, though, said her business has no affiliation with that now shuttered business. It is just coincidence — and the eternal optimism of bakers — that another sweet shop is opening in the space.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Keep your eyes open for a possible new restaurant along Ninth Street. You may remember the old Presto gasoline station near Ninth and Louisiana streets. It was the subject of much news coverage several years ago when a large underground fuel leak was found at the site.
Well, Lawrence businessman Brad Ziegler has bought that property, and is marketing the location as a spot for a future restaurant. I don’t believe Ziegler, who is in the bar and restaurant business with places like 6 Mile Chop House and Eighth Street Taproom, plans to operate a new venture.
A few weeks ago, I briefly talked with Ziegler, who didn’t have much to add on the property, other than he was optimistic he was going to find a restaurant tenant for the site. Word on the street certainly has been that Brad Walters, owner of The Basil Leaf Cafe, was interested in opening a new restaurant in the space. The gas station property is next door to The Basil Leaf Cafe.
I chatted with Walters briefly today, and he said was working on a deal for the property, but had nothing to announce yet. My understanding is the deal doesn’t involve moving Basil Leaf but rather involves a new restaurant concept. But again, that deal is not done yet.
However, renovation work is underway at the site, which caused several of you to ask me what is going on there. So, that’s what I know at the moment, and I’ll pass along additional information as I get it.
File this under the category of a location to keep an eye on. (Or perhaps under the category of late-night, drunken donut memories.)
But it looks like there may be a new business coming to the former location of Joe’s Bakery — which for those of you who weren’t in town years ago, was a late-night institution that served many a student a donut after a night on the town.
Brad Ziegler, a local bar owner, recently purchased the vacant building near Ninth and Mississippi streets. But Ziegler told me the building definitely won’t become a bar.
“It probably will become some sort of restaurant,” Ziegler said.
He said he’s had about 20 inquiries since he bought the building in December, and all but one of them have been interested in using the building for some sort of restaurant. Most ideas have been centered on quick-service, in and out type of restaurants for the location, which is just off the edge of KU’s campus.
Ziegler doesn’t yet have a deal for the building, but hopes to have one signed in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, some work already has begun on the building.
“It definitely needed a good scrubbing,” Ziegler said. “We took out the duct work so it doesn’t smell like a donut shop forever.”
I’ll let you know if I hear more specifics.