Saturday August 24th, 2013
Born out of a mother’s love for her family, one local business is changing lives.
When 47-year-old Chris Brecka’s son was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 1994, things were looking bleak. Although gluten-free foods were available, their quality was less than desirable — and that’s putting it mildly. When her youngest daughter was diagnosed with the same in 1996, the situation went from bad to worse.
Struggling with foods to meet their dietary-restrictions (that were edible) Brecka leaped into action.
“I was desperate for them to eat and even more desperate for them to feel as close to ‘normal’ as possible,” she said. “I didn’t want their food to look like special allergy-free food. This is a diet that they will have for life and when they were younger it was very important for them to feel like their friends. I remember their grade school having at least one food day a month, if not more, and I was always trying to make the gluten-free version. I developed some really good products, most you couldn’t even tell they were ‘different.'”
At the time, Brecka and her children were also part of a support group. Eventually she started bringing her baked goods to meetings and things took off from there. Interest in the product allowed the mother to open a business out of her house in 1998, fueled mostly by support members. Eventually her labour of love outgrew the house and Healthy Creations Bakery (333 Dougall Square) opened its doors in 2009.
Ready to serve those with different allergies or diets, the clean and inviting bakery is welcoming to first-time customers. Chalk boards share different facts prominently and any additional questions can be answered by friendly staff, including Brecka’s two daughters. With many products available, all are organized neatly in different areas of the store: Some in freezers and others in displays listing ingredient information. All are well-priced, however.
While bread is a hot seller, hamburger buns and pizza shells are among the bakery’s most popular items: Motor Burger uses the former for their gluten-free burger and 14 pizzerias use their shells. Chocolate chip has the best sales in their wide variety of cookies, while date squares and brownie cookie bars are the store’s most popular treats.
Still, this is only scratching the surface. Healthy Creations goes far beyond just gluten-free.
“We offer almost anything that is baked — bread is our biggest draw,” said Brecka. “We have an extensive product list of over 75 items. Everything in our store is gluten-free but we also have a number of milk (casein) free and egg-free items. Although we are not a nut-free facility we don’t use peanuts as an ingredient. If someone has an anaphylactic allergy we expect them to let us know and we will advise the best choices to ensure their safety.”
Although they’re getting away from individual special orders, Healthy Creations still does showers, luncheons and other special events as well. Customers looking to purchase baked goods for one of these occasions are asked to call and place their order at least three days in advance. With many muffins, dessert bars, tarts and cupcakes to choose from, it’s a great way to include others who may have specific dietary needs. The bakery is also creating different lines of products, including items specific to the elimination diet, vegan customers, heart smart and low-sugar treats.
At the end of the day, what motivates Brecka mirrors what got her started. With a desire to take care of others, it continues to drive the business and is something she doesn’t take lightly.
“Our happy customers keep us motivated to continue what we are doing” said Brecka. “The best responses are usually the tears of joy. We have had many customers, on their first visit, sample some items and actually cry. They are so pleased that they will not have to go without good tasting food. We are life savers, they say. That is probably the highest compliment — to be a life saver, it’s a very serious role.”
For more information about Healthy Creations you can visit their website or call 519-250-4272.