Made in New England: Meet Michael Smulders of (Gluten-Free) Bakery on Main
Nestled in the heart of Glastonbury, Connecticut, Bakery on Main dazzled locals with the delicious baked goods they sold out of their tiny, Main-Street bakery. But upon learning from his customers about the lack of delicious, quality, gluten-free products, founder Michael Smulders decided the bakery model needed a change. He made it his mission to create 100 percent celiac-friendly, gluten-free items, eventually uprooting to a 111,000 square-foot, dedicated gluten-free facility in East Hartford. We got to chat with Michael about the change in direction, the bakery team’s involvement with the local community, strict sourcing guidelines, and their mission to spread health and happiness.
R.K.: How did you get the idea to launch Bakery on Main, and take it from idea to business?
M.S.: In my original bakery [on Main Street in Glastonbury, CT], my customers with celiac disease would tell me about the lack of gluten-free items available to them and how bad-tasting most of them were. I believe that nobody should have to suffer due to dietary restrictions so, upon hearing their complaints, I made it my mission to develop celiac-safe, gluten-free items that would taste great to not only those who cannot ingest gluten, but to everyone who tries them! We developed our original gluten-free granola as an oat-free alternative and from there we have continued to grow and innovate.
R.K.: Baking products that bring happiness to your customers is a big part of your mission. How do you encourage happy and healthy lifestyles in your community and among your team?
M.S.: We do everything we can to support our community. We make many food donations to local food banks, local and national celiac support organizations and events, and local farmers to be used as feed for their animals. We also donate school supplies to the local school system and even built our facility in an area that needed jobs.
The team has a strong sense of family among us! We all work together to make sure we are bringing our customers only the highest quality, best-tasting food we can, while bringing them happiness in knowing that everything we make is celiac-safe.
R.K.: You are a dedicated gluten-free facility, and utilizing premium ingredients is important for you. How do you source your ingredients and go about recipe development?
M.S.: We make sure that all ingredients we use are sourced from companies that have the same values and certifications as we do. We believe in clean ingredients so every ingredient brought into our facility is not only certified gluten-free, but also NON-GMO Project Verified, OU Kosher, dairy and casein free as well.
Our mission is to share happiness with our great-tasting items, so when we begin to develop new recipes, we listen to what our customers want! From there, we do numerous rounds of testing to ensure that the taste is perfect. We want to be confident that everything we introduce to our customers will instantly become an item they can rely on to satisfy their need, while knowing they can feel safe enjoying it too.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way in launching your business? Any particular challenges along the way?
M.S.: It takes more time, effort and money to succeed than you think it will.
R.K.: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
M.S. We love Connecticut’s people! They are motivated, hard-working and well educated. Connecticut’s government has helped us, under their Department of Economic and Community Development, to build our facility in an enterprise zone in a community that desperately needs jobs. We are proud to have created more than 100 jobs in the East Hartford, Connecticut area.
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
M.S.: I am inspired by the founding fathers of our nation because they believed they could create something marvelous and unique out of an idea. That is what we do at Bakery On Main.
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
M.S.: We look forward to seeing our products in the hands of more people whose lives are made a little better by what we offer.
R.K.: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?
M.S.: Work for someone else in the same type of business until you understand it!
R.K.: At WELL, we believe 360 wellness comes in all forms. What does wellness look like for you?
M.S.: Wellness is a belief in good. That belief manifests as a desire to fuel our minds with positive ideas and surround ourselves with positive people. It manifests as the desire to exercise and stretch our bodies and it manifests as a desire to fuel our bodies with the cleanest, purest food possible. Bakery On Main helps people fulfill that desire to fuel their body with the best possible options and does it in a great tasting way.
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