“Free-From” Business Spotlight: Joe and Amy Hitzemann, founders of A&J Bakery, a Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Rhode Island Bakery
One thing I truly miss is eating the same dessert as my husband. Due to my gluten intolerance, and his nut allergy (he also doesn’t eat chocolate, as a result of an allergy he grew out of), there are very few dessert items that are safe for both of us to eat. During my research about bakeries who are 100% free of the top-eight allergens (there aren’t many), I came across A&J BakeryÂ located Cranston, Rhode Island. This family-owned nut-free and gluten-free bakery was started by a husband/wife couple with over 28 years of combined baking experience. I initially discovered them during my quest to find an allergen-free gingerbread house, but I quickly realized that they offer so much more. From breads to pastries to pasta, pies, candy, and cookies, they have it all, and the best part? Safe for everyone who wants nut-free and gluten-free products, in addition to items which are free of the top eight allergens. Not in the Rhode Island area? No need to worry, they ship nationally!
Lemon Meringue Pie, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free,Â Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
I was lucky enough to catch up owners Joe and Amy Hitzemann to talk about their amazing bakery and get the inside dish on their background, top selling items, hardest custom request, and more.
Joe at work in the bakery
AFW:Â What made you decide to want to open a nut & gluten free bakery?Â
A&J Bakery: Â We decided to open the bakery because we thought our son had a nut allergy. We were both bakers since we were teenagers, and Â decided to go gluten-free later into our careers. Joe himself has created and formulated all the recipes so that they are as close to “normal” as possible.
Blueberry Pie, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free,Â Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW: Are either of you allergic to nuts or gluten?
A&J Bakery (Amy):Â I was recently diagnosed with an egg allergy and gluten sensitivity.
Pumpkin Spice Roll, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free, Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW:Â What item is the hardest to make gluten-free or nut-free?
A&J Bakery:Â Some of the hardest items to make are the most popular items, like pizza and bread. The reason I say that is because everyone has a certain perception of what they should taste like and look like. People eat with their eyes so perception of what is the known look of something is hard to change.
Pumpkin and Banana Bread, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free,Â Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW:Â Tell us about your top selling items. What are they?
A&J Bakery:Â We sell lots of bread, rolls, cookies and brownies. But one of our most popular items is allergen friendly gingerbread house kit, which is free from the top eight major food allergens. One of our goals is to make kids and adults alike to feel normal and able to eat along with everyone else.
Chocolate Chunk Biscotto, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free,Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW:Â I’m amazed to see all the different varieties of biscotti! Ainse, Birthday Cake, Caramel Butterscotch, Chocolate Chunk, Chocolate Covered Banana, Gingerbread, Lemon Raspberry, the list goes on!Â What inspired this collection?
A&J Bakery:Â This was our first item ever created and started the whole thing!
AFW: Do you take custom orders? What’s the craziest order you’ve ever received?Â
A&J Bakery:Â Yes, we take custom orders. Some of the oddest requests has been the writing on the cakes or the color combinations that people believe will look great together!
Custom Cake, Nut-Free and Gluten-Free, Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW:Â Your custom cakes are incredible! Who’s in charge of the design?
A&J Bakery:Â Amy does!Â She hand draws all pictures that are then transferred onto the cakes.
Cherry Bomb Cupcake, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free, Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW:Â Is it difficult to source 100% nut and gluten free ingredients for your products?
A&J Bakery:Â Yes, the hardest part is getting the suppliers to understand that you need their products to be 100%Â free allergens. No contamination is acceptable.
Allergen-Free Gingerbread Man Cookie Kit, Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW: I imagine that your primary customer base are those who suffer from food allergies.Â Do you have customers without food allergies who love your treats?
A&J Bakery:Â Yes, but usually they love it because someone got them hooked on it. “Normalcy” is vital for all items.
Chicken Pot Pie, Gluten-Free and Nut-Free, Photo Credit: A&J Bakery
AFW:Â What do you make for yourself for dinner after a long day of cooking?
A&J Bakery: We bake all day and then Amy cooks the three of us dinner or we go out to dinner especially during the holidays when we are busy.
Thanks so much to Amy & Joe for taking the time to speak with me! Looking for an allergen-free gingerbread house this holiday season? Look no further than A&J Bakery!