Simply Sweet boasts Buffalo’s best gluten-free baked goods

there is no doubt that Simply Sweet of WNY boasts Buffalo’s best gluten-free baked goods.

Simply Sweet is my favorite bakery in Buffalo for a few reasons:

  • simplysweet logoIt’s locally owned and operated by a wonderful woman, Cindy Slomowitz.
  • It has the best gluten-free pasta I’ve ever found: Pappardelle’s.
  • They sell rugelach. (Not every day, but when requested. Piece of advice: go there and request it. It is a gift from the heavens above.)
  • They sell a ton of other locally made, gluten-free, products.

I first chatted with Cindy Slomowitz, in January 2014.

At the time, her bakery was a just a dream. Flash forward just 15 months later; Cindy now owns one of Buffalo’s most popular gluten-free bakeries.

simply sweet5I caught up with her to find out what it’s been like starting her own business, how the community has responded to her products and what you can look forward to enjoying during your next visit to the bakery.

Q: Cindy, last time we spoke you were just starting the process of opening up your bakery. I’m curious to hear how the process was of opening up your own brick and mortar shop compared to what you were doing before by selling your product to local retailers?

A: It has definitely been a learning experience to say the least! Opening the brick and mortar part of the bakery was the easy part.

Once I selected the equipment I wanted and designed the layout and interior of the bakery, I just turned it all over to my husband, Ken, who took it from there. He has been, and still is, my biggest supporter.

simply sweet2Learning the process of baking for day-to-day retail sales as opposed to baking for a one day farmers market had a bit of a learning curve. There are so many thing that come in to play: how much variety, quantity because of shelf life, display, storage, specialty items, the list goes on.

Sometimes it is still a guessing game! It has been almost a year, but I think we have done a good job of always having a variety of delicious gluten-free items that people are really enjoying.

Q: When did you officially open?

A: We officially opened last year the week of Mothers Day, so our one year anniversary is coming up!

simply sweet4Q: How has business been? Have you seen the foot traffic or brand awareness increase throughout the last year?

A: Business had been really good. We still see a lot of new customers every week, so I know that people are out there talking about us and that is a good sign. I think word of mouth is one of the best ways to advertise.

Just coming up on our anniversary we have close to 3,500 Facebook likes; I think that is great!  Checking out our page is the best way to see what we have going on day-to-day. I post daily pictures of things we are offering that week. We are till trying to get a handle on Instagram and Twitter.

Q: What’s your favorite part of owning your own business? Was there anything that surprised you or opened your eyes about being a business owner?

simply sweet7A: My favorite part of owning a business is the customers.

We truly have some wonderful people who come in and share their tale of woe or triumph over eating gluten-free.

Customers thank me continuously for doing what I do, opening this bakery, and sometimes even have tears in their eyes because they are so happy, is the best part for me.

Q: What’s your personal favorite product that you make?

Cindy, owner of Simply Sweet

Cindy, owner of Simply Sweet

A: A favorite item is hard for me to pick because I truly enjoy baking and we make so many great items!

Since your making me choose, I still think my Chocolate Chip Cookie is still my favorite any time of day, with a close second to our Brownie if I am craving chocolate!

Q: What’s your most popular or best-selling product that you make?

A: We have a few, I have learned that we can never be without Black & White Cookies, Brownies, Coconut Macaroons, and Cranberry Bliss Cookies.

Q: Yum! I love the coconut macaroons. So, I know that you sell more than just Simply Sweet products. What’s your favorite product (that you don’t make) that you sell in the bakery?

simply sweet6A: My favorite product that I sell that I do not make is Brian’s Best Buns. They are truly the best sandwich bun on the market, and since I have opened I have sold several hundred bags.

I carry them in gluten-free Whole Grain, Mock Rye, and dairy-free/gluten-free Whole Grain. They come in two sizes, regular sandwich size, or “Baby Buns” dinner roll size.

Q: I love Brian’s Best Buns and am so happy that you sell them! Until you did, the only place I knew I could get them would be brunch (or lunch) at Betty’s on Virginia. What made you decide to sell products outside of your own brand in the bakery?

simply sweet3A: When I opened the bakery I decided I wanted to offer other gluten-free products that I did not make that are either produced gluten-free or are naturally gluten-free to help promote and support other business that started out just like mine, in the kitchen of their own home.

Brian’s Best Buns, Moxie Bars, Donna’s Pepper Jelly and Jams, Public Coffee are all locally made. I am always on the look out for new products.

Q: Is there anything that I should keep my eyes (or appetite) open for, such as the introduction of new products? Or is there anything you’d like to share with the audience?

A: We are constantly getting requests for bread, so we will soon be offering sandwich bread and par-baked pizza crust.

My latest product introduction that has taken off very well is Buttermilk Biscuits that you take home and bake.

In closing, I would like to let everyone know that we can make a variety of custom cakes and desserts, and most of them can be made dairy-free as well if need be. Just give us at least 48 hours notice for your special order!

simply sweet1There’s no doubt that Simply Sweet has one of the largest varieties of gluten-free, locally made products available in the region.

I highly recommend making it a point to stop in sometime over the next month to try out one of her products. You’ll be blown away by the quality and consistency.

Gluten-free or not, I promise that you won’t leave disappointed.

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Simply Sweet makes gluten-free, good

The quantity and variety of gluten-free products increases with each passing day.

According to the Gluten-Free Agency, sales in the gluten-free category are expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2015, and over 15 percent of consumers eat gluten-free as part of a healthy lifestyle, not just due to dietary restrictions.

The production of gluten-free foods is becoming more commonplace as the gluten-free diet becomes increasingly trendy.

simply9Mixed feelings abound in regard to the gluten-free diet fad, especially among those who suffer from Celiac disease, as the diet’s trendiness has both disadvantaged and benefited those forced to adhere to the gluten-free diet.

On the downside, the gluten-free trend has led some retailers to introduce sub-par products into the market just to ensure they don’t miss the opportunity to attract an expanding group of consumers.

On the upside, the demand for gluten-free products is higher than ever which has led to a wide selection of high-quality products to choose from.

It can even be seen in our own backyard, as Buffalo boasts an abundance of restaurants both knowledgeable and accommodating of the gluten-free diet.

Similarly, through the quality of their products, local start-ups are beginning to prove that when it comes to gluten-free, there’s no need to settle.

Gluten free doesn’t have to mean anything other than free of gluten.

simply4While running errands around Buffalo last year, I discovered a start-up that was sweetening the community by baking a wide variety of gluten-free delicacies that can be found at local markets.

During a visit to Spot Coffee, I discovered Simply Sweet Of WNY. Posted up right by the counter, the basket of gluten-free cookies sang to me and I ended up inhaling an oatmeal cookie before my coffee was ready.

In January 2014, I chatted with Cindy Slomovitz of Simply Sweet of WNY to find out how she got started, what products she makes and where you can go to indulge in the plethora of gluten-free sweets that she makes.
*Note: this interview was conducted in 2014; stay tuned for an updated interview!

Q: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. As you can see from my blog, I’m a big advocate for the gluten-free community so I’m excited to have the chance to learn more about your business.

A: My pleasure, Julia. I actually went online and read your posts and learned about some new places which I have never heard about, like Merge! I love learning about new gluten-free businesses, so it’s been great to read your series.

simply5Q: So, my first question is pretty obvious: do you personally suffer from Celiac disease?

A: I found out that I was gluten-intolerant when I came across an article in a women’s health and cooking magazine. Since I’m a foodie, I picked it up and immediately was like “that’s me, I have those symptoms.” I started following the diet and within 10 days of eliminating gluten from my diet, I started feeling better. I haven’t eaten gluten for the last six years.

Q: Since Celiac is an auto-immune disease, everyone’s symptoms manifest themselves differently. I personally suffer from debilitating stomach pain (like someone is stabbing my lower abdomen,) but my mom just gets a runny nose. How do you react when eating gluten?

simply7A: It’s so true! I think that’s part of the reason why it’s hard to diagnose…because everyone responds differently. I started having some intestinal issues, bad joint pain and dental issues as well. I wasn’t feeling well and when I started researching the symptoms, I saw that they tied together. Once I stopped eating gluten, the problems disappeared. I no longer had joint pain and literally felt 10 years younger!

Q: Wow. It’s always interesting for me to her how differently people react despite having the same intolerance. But onto more positive things like your business; when did you start, and why?

A: I started my business about one year ago. I’m of Polish descent so everything revolves around food; it’s all, “What are you going to make and bring for the family dinner?” I also love to cook, so after I had a pity party for myself after coming home from Wegmans and trying the gluten-free pre-made products, I told myself there’s got to be a way to do this.

simplysweet logoI started researching, reading, baking and testing recipes. Through the years, I got good at it. I would cook for friends and family and nobody would know that it was gluten-free. My husband finally convinced me to take things to the next level. He’s a business owner. He has a business background so he handles the business and I do the baking. I felt like just because we have to eat this way, we shouldn’t be deprived.

Q: I couldn’t agree more. So, would you say that is your mission?

A: I guess I would say that my mission is that I want us (America) to get over the idea that just because something isn’t made with wheat flour, doesn’t mean it can’t taste good. I want people who need to eat this way to have as tasty a treat as those who don’t have to follow the gluten-free diet. It’s not fair that we have to settle for sub-standard treats.

simply6Q: Did any specific experience or person serve as the inspiration for you to start your business?

A: My inspiration came after starting the diet and trying a few different products in the market. The first time I ate a gluten-free bagel, I spit it right back out. Not only did it cost $7 for the bag, but it was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. That was all the inspiration I needed; I decided that I’m not settling for this.

Then it was the support of my husband in telling me that my products were good and I could do it. I think that food is so celebratory; it brings people together. It’s comforting. Look at the weather we’ve been having; why shouldn’t I be able to have a warm piece of cornbread right out of the oven? That was my inspiration; my love of food and desire to provide other people with good food they can eat.

Q: You obviously love to cook and eat, so I’ve got to know: what products do you make, and how long did it take to come up with the recipes? I know that with gluten-free baking, recipe creation can be the most time consuming process.

A: I typically start with a basic recipe and tweak it from there to make it gluten-free. I mean, you can’t reinvent the chocolate chip cookie. I find recipes out there and adjust them by adding a flavor or replacing a flour. The whole science of baking gluten-free is hard because each product reacts differently, so it’s about trial and error.

simply3Q: Oh, completely. If you read my interview with Kyra Bussanich, you get a good feel for how much effort is required just to make a flour blend.

A: I just bought her cookbook! It’s wonderful! I made the peanut butter truffle bars; they were like a rice krispy treat with peanut butter cream topping and dark chocolate. It was delicious! Anything with peanut butter is a winner for me.

Q: So, how many products do you make? Or is it hard to say since you like to play around in the kitchen?

A:  I have a basic core which includes about about eight different kinds of cookies: chocolate chip, oatmeal, cranberry, granola, sugar, peanut butter, a double chocolate chip and a half-and-half cookie which is made by combining a scoop of double chocolate chip cookie dough with a scoop of the peanut butter cookie dough. So, cookies are my basis. I also make granola, brownies and crumb cake.

Q: Mmm, I’m getting hungry. Since you’re the chef, I’m curious to know what your personal favorite product is that you make?

A: That’s tough, I have so much. I was thinking about that and I think the hardest thing for me to resist when baking and pulling it out of the oven is my chocolate chip cookies. I try not to eat them so much because it’s like my waist line—I bake everyday—but they are delicious.

simply8Q: That sounds great. So, now that I’m starving, where can I go to find your products, locally?

A: I have a few different locations that I sell to. I deliver to Spot Coffee’s main kitchen on Hertel, and they distribute it out to their various locations. I sell my granola at Lexington Co-Op and also sell a variety of products at Farmers and Artisans. I sell a variety of products at Mazurek’s Bakery; the types of products vary by the week but they’re usually always cookies.

Finally, I make treats that I serve at Horsefeathers Winter Market. I’m there every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It has everything from my gluten-free products to meat, cheese, dog treats, fruits, vegetables. It’s a fun thing to do in the city on a Saturday morning.
*Click here for the complete list of Simply Sweet’s locations.

Q: What would you say is the most popular product? Do you happen to know which one flies off the shelves fastest?

simply2A: There’s really no way to know. There were three weeks in a row when I sold out of granola, then the next week I brought extra and nobody bought a bag (chuckles). It’s different every time. But whatever I’m sampling, I sell out of every time. I’ve found that once people sample it, they’re hooked on it.

Q: It sounds like things are going really well, which must be very exciting. Do you have any plans to expand to sell in more locations?

A: I am hoping to expand in the upcoming months and have contacted a few different stores which I hope to hear back from within the next month. I also plan to open a Simply Sweet bakery! The exact location is still to be determined, but I can tell you that it will be in the Village of Williamsville.

Q: That’s a great sign! So, one final question: is there any message or anything you’d like to share with the gluten-free eaters or readers of the blog series about your business?

simply1A: I have so many ideas and things that I want to share with people who have to eat this way. I mostly want to share that the reason I continue to grow Simply Sweet is to make sure that people who eat gluten free have a great place to come and enjoy delicious baked goods.

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It’s clear to see that Cindy Slomovitz, the owner of Simply Sweet, feels passionately about providing local gluten-free eaters with treats that are delicious and healthy.

Stay tuned for a recent interview with Cindy which will showcase her newly opened bakery!