Produced, edited and filmed by Zoe Stilphen ’22
At Wildflours, Maine’s first entirely gluten-free market and bakery, customers who would usually be limited by dietary restrictions can enjoy sweets, breads and savory treats worry-free. The bakery, located at 54 Cumberland Street, has grown since its opening in 2008. It offers wholesale and custom orders in addition to retail goods at its storefront.
When owner Kelley Hughes was first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that meant she couldn’t eat gluten, she struggled to find foods that fit her dietary needs. After experimenting with recipes in her kitchen, Hughes decided to open Wildflours 11 years ago as a market and bakery in a tiny storefront on Maine Street. At that time, many people hadn’t heard of gluten-free products.
“I could tell a telemarketer because they would call and say ‘Hello, is this Wildflours ‘glutton-free’ bakery?’” Hughes said.
Hughes planned to start by selling flour and baking mixes before transitioning to a full-fledged bakery. But in 2011, two years after the business opened, a fire destroyed the store. Hughes quickly found a new location on Cumberland Street and converted the then office space into a kitchen.
Three years ago, the bakery opened as a retail location. Customers can now purchase a variety of gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan products while enjoying the rustic decor, aroma of baked goods and view of the goodies being prepared in the open-concept kitchen behind the counter.
“This is by far my favorite version of this business,” Hughes said. “I really love working with other people. I have totally amazing employees.”
Many of the products at Wildflours are baked fresh every day beginning at 5 a.m. About half of the items are sold at the bakery and the other half are delivered to vendors in Brunswick and Portland. In the coming years, Wildflours hopes to grow its delivery service to include more locations in Maine.
Stephen Reardon, a customer with Celiac disease, has been glad to find a bakery that entirely caters to his needs.
“This has been huge for us,” Reardon said. “We live about 40 minutes away, so whenever we’re passing by we stop in to get something. We’ve just been trying to go through them all and sample everything.”
As gluten-free eating has become more popular, Wildflours has grown to attract customers who don’t have dietary restrictions but enjoy gluten-free eating nonetheless. Iggy Parker and Izik Dery, for example, don’t eat exclusively gluten-free, but still enjoy Wildflours’ goods. Dery said that he does notice a difference in the texture of gluten-free items, but that it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable.
While it can be difficult to create new gluten-free recipes because of the denser flours, Hughes said she enjoys the challenge. Bread can be particularly hard to bake gluten-free, but it’s one of the most popular items at Wildflours.
“I think it’s partly [that] we have time on our side. We’ve been making one kind of bread for 10 years and so we’ve been able to tweak it and play with it,” Hughes said. “We know that it can taste amazing so we just won’t settle with anything until we get that.”