Small business bakers sell homemade goods at market

Linda Hays of Forest Fairy Bakery prepares sticky buns. A family owned operation, the bakery is one of 20 vendors to set up shop at this weekend’s Cottage Bakers Market in Bellevue.  - Kevin Endejan
Linda Hays of Forest Fairy Bakery prepares sticky buns. A family owned operation, the bakery is one of 20 vendors to set up shop at this weekend’s Cottage Bakers Market in Bellevue.
— image credit: Kevin Endejan

When Ashleigh Catlin of Fancy Free Bakery in Kirkland was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2001, she found herself giving up gluten and dairy, and soon after soy and eggs. Still a kid at the time, her mom tried modifying her favorite recipes to meet her daughter’s needs, substituting out the ingredients she couldn’t eat due to the digestive condition.

What started as every kid’s worst nightmare – no cakes, pasta, cookies or bread – eventually became the inspiration for Fancy Free Bakery.

“We realized, well we can’t be the only one eating gluten-free and vegan. Let’s see if the demand is out there,” Catlin recalled.

In 2011, joined by colleagues Lynn Prigg and Kaylee Nilan, Catlin launched the small home-based operation that promises gluten and dairy free products without the compromised taste. It quickly gained a following on the Eastside, selling goodies at markets in Issaquah and Kirkland.

“It’s always a struggle when you’re working and raising a family, or going to school,” said Catlin, “to have to meet your dietary needs and make your own bread.”

Fancy Free Bakery is among 20-plus vendors planned for this weekend’s Cottage Bakers Market at Bellevue’s Northwest Arts Center, featuring exclusively local and freshly made treats by artisan cooks and food crafters alike. The menu promises everything from pastries and handmade candies to cheesecakes, pies, breads, scones and cinnamon rolls.

“I thought, why not do something that’s not a farmers market, but is the same concept,” says founder Felicia Foster. “There’s no middle man, the producer sells directly to the consumer.”

Until the passage of Washington’s Cottage Food Act in 2011, many home-based entrepreneurs were forced to sell their cakes, cookies, jams and more, under the table. Bakers like Catlin, are still limited by their small operations, but can now sell to farmers markets, friends and family, and occasionally on sites like Etsy. Foster hopes Saturday’s market will offer an opportunity for vendors to expand, but also to meet customers face-to-face.

“It’s so great to get direct feedback, to find out what other sensitivities there are out there,” said Catlin, “and rewarding to hear people who have children say, ‘finally there’s something they can eat.’”

She remembers one woman who burst into tears last year when she bit into a doughnut for the first time in years.

“My hope is that people will realize these aren’t items sold in a grocery store… it’s a much more personal relationship. Whether it’s a certain key ingredient or that face-to-face interaction, knowing who your baker is, or who your cake maker is…will appeal to people.”

The Cottage Bakers Market will operate from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, with another planned for the following weekend, Saturday, May 11.



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