Pip's Place, an upscale gluten-free bakery, opened in May on New York City's Upper East Side.
When Denise Cumming’s daughter Olivia (nicknamed Pippi) was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago, she was determined not to let her daughter feel deprived. She spent four years testing gluten-free dessert formulas out on her family before opening the upscale gluten-free bakery Pip’s Place on May 17 on New York City’s Upper East Side.
“My first success was with a chocolate cake,” Cumming says. “Our twin boys didn’t even know they were eating gluten-free. That’s the best compliment–that it doesn’t taste gluten-free. It was so clear that baking made me happy. And baking for people with this need is wonderful and so emotional.”
In place of wheat flour, she uses white and brown rice flour and teff, as well as potato and corn starch. The bakery has developed three unique blends for the various types of product. The entirely gluten-free menu contains 45 products, including cakes, cupcakes, cheesecake, shortbread, cookies, muffins (two flavors of which also are dairy-free), scones, macarons, brownies, bars, quickbreads and granola. The bakery has two wholesale clients and ships to the city and surrounding areas.
Before opening, the bakery sampled a lot of product and got a boost from local media coverage, which helped bring in customers who weren’t necessarily seeking gluten-free products. “I was concerned with marketing–how can we make this for everybody?” Cumming says. Today, half the customers have celiac disease or gluten allergies (Cumming always asks) and Pip’s Place sells out of product once per day.
About 450 sq. ft. of the 1,200-sq.-ft bakery is dedicated to production, with 350 sq. ft. for retail and the rest for storage. The open-concept layout allows customers to see the bakers and decorators at work. The bakery is open seven days a week, and everything is baked fresh from scratch each day.
“Gluten-free products last two days–on day three you don’t want to eat them,” Cumming notes.
She hopes to open a second location next spring and expand the product line to include bread and more dairy-free items. “Customers felt deprived, and now they have a place that’s just for them. It’s a wonderful thing,” she says.