Laurie Falconer’s life was forever altered when she was diagnosed with celiac disease, but despite the difficulties she faced she was able to establish The Cookie Jar, a 100 per cent gluten-free business.
Five years ago Falconer began struggling with unfamiliar health issues that started impacting her daily routine.
“I didn’t know what it was; I kept going to the doctor and I was really, really sick,” Falconer says. “It was to the point where I was almost housebound.”
Without knowing the reasons for the sickness she was experiencing, she became very cautious with where she went.
“If I had to go somewhere, I wouldn’t eat — because I didn’t know what was making me sick,” Falconer recalls. “I kept talking to doctors and they just kept doing different tests, but nobody tested for celiac.”
After many doctors appointments, it wasn’t until her husband stumbled upon the answer talking with friends that things began to change.
Falconer was diagnosed with celiac disease — an autoimmune response that causes her to have an allergic reaction to products containing gluten.
“I felt like I got my life back, even though it was really hard to make the changes,” Falconer says.
Although she adapted to a gluten-free diet, Falconer has experienced many difficulties along the way.
Changing what she ate wasn’t the only thing that she had to learn; she also had to find a safe way to eat it.
“If I were to make a sandwich with regular bread on the countertop, and then put a gluten-free slice of bread on the countertop, there would be cross-contamination…It makes you really, really sick. I’ve had it happen.”
Falconer soon discovered that creating recipes and baking with gluten-free flours wasn’t as easy as she initially thought.
“I thought when I first became celiac, ‘oh, you just go buy a bag of gluten-free flour and you swap that out,’ and nothing worked.”
Transitioning to a gluten-free diet created unexpected opportunities for her, allowing her to identify with others struggling with celiac disease.
“Several people I know are celiac as well, so they tasted some of the things I made and they started ordering stuff from me,” she says.
Falconer began considering ways to support her family’s income while keeping her close to home.
“My husband and I discussed it, and we went to the city to see if we could build a commercial kitchen in our garage,” she says.
With her vision in mind and the help of her husband, Falconer began building an industrial kitchen, but it took determination.
“The city was hard,” she says. “The permits were hard. The cost of everything — it’s not even all the big things, it’s all the little things; the pans, the spoons, all the little things add up far faster,” she says.
“We were kinda going back and forth exploring our options before we jumped in, because the kitchen was about $45,000 to build,” she says. “It’s a lot of money to put in your personal line of credit on an unknown thing.”
After the kitchen was finally built — the couple began looking for the right venue to sell Falconer’s unique baking.
Gap in the market
Falconer began to notice the demand of gluten-free products and the difference they could create in the community.
“I realized how important it was, every time I went to the grocery store everything I bought didn’t taste so great. So I was like, ‘I think there’s a real need for this.’”
This evolved into The Cookie Jar; an exclusively gluten-free business based out of Crossroads Market.
With the unique challenge of gluten-free baking, Falconer is continuously experimenting with new recipes.
“Everything I do is gluten-free,” she says. “A lot of the recipes I use came from my grandma. So I printed off 10 copies of each recipe, and then I would try and make them gluten-free, and I would make notes in the margins.”
With strong determination, Falconer works tirelessly to perfect each one of her recipes; “sometimes I start dreaming recipes.”
“I had a lot of failures, and I had a lot of things that didn’t taste very good,” she says. “I just kept trying and trying until I got good products that didn’t taste gluten-free.”
With 35 years of friendship, Dale Castle realizes the dedication it takes for Falconer to sustain her business. She explains that Falconer’s drive comes from her family.
“She also knows that people there depend on her for the baking and stuff that she makes, so she doesn’t want to let them down either,” Castle says.
Falconer’s business brings joy to others suffering from celiac disease, like younger kids who are celiac.
“They’re not used to having treats they can have,” Falconer says. “Their parents will say, ‘you can have anything in the display,’ and they’re like, ‘what!’ It’s the cutest thing in the whole world, because they’re so excited.”
Falconer’s friend and employee Desiree Hoffman can attest to the astonishment and glee customers experience visiting Falconer’s booth.
“Even though the signs say, ‘everything is gluten-free,’ they are really surprised because there is such a selection and such an opportunity to actually have something that tastes good, instead of the normal gluten-free products that you sort of grin and bear it,” says Hoffman.
The quality and taste of her products is very important to her,“if I can’t make it taste good, I won’t sell it,” Falconer says.
Editor: Rayane Sabbagh | email@example.com