FARGO—A bakery recently made a small move that comes with big new opportunities to add a coffee bar, cafe and home decor store.
Mehl's Gluten-Free Bakery moved to another unit in a Fargo strip mall at 1404 33rd St. S. and opened in its new spot Feb. 6. It took over a 3,000-square-foot space that housed Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, which closed in November.
It's a big step up from the smaller unit where brothers Paul, Matthew and Mark Mehl opened Mehl's in last March. The bakery now has a full coffee bar, and it will start serving breakfasts and lunches in a new in-house cafe by March 1 that will offer food from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Matthew Mehl said the business has also perfected its own gluten- and dairy-free protein powder, and customers will be able to order coffee, meals and protein shakes at the drive-thru window when that opens this spring.
"We're really excited about that because a mom with three kids, they don't want to unpack all the rugrats and come in here," he said.
The Mehls' path to owning a large gluten-free business began years ago as family members relearned what they could eat when they were diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that requires sufferers to stop eating gluten proteins.
It started with Paul Mehl launching Mehl's Gluten-Free Flour, a special mix that's available to buy in stores and at the bakery. He next opened Simply Savory, a Fargo gluten-free bakery and food store, in 2010.
Matthew and Mark Mehl quit their day jobs in 2013 to join Paul at Mehl's. The business has changed its model in recent months, closing its West Fargo manufacturing facility to instead have a North Dakota mill blend its flours and mixes so the brothers could focus on retail and wholesale operations.
The recent move to a larger store also allowed the addition of a new side business: home decor retailer Grace 1972 that's owned by Matthew Mehl and his wife, Audra Mehl.
Grace 1972's name has a personal meaning for Audra Mehl. She said "Grace" refers to her new definition of grace as "undeserved kindness" that she learned during past relationship struggles. The year, meanwhile, is her birth year. It also refers to when her mother and father really started to make their own lives on a family farm after getting married in 1971.
The store includes staged furniture from Gathered Boutique Rentals & Events. Customers can buy several "farmhouse chic" items, including pillows and accessories.
"It's something for us to do together as a couple," Audra Mehl said.
Mark Mehl said the cafe and bakery aims to make tasty options for anyone, whether or not they need to follow a gluten-free diet, as well as food that's nut-free and dairy-free to work for people on restricted diets.
"It's important to have a variety of different items because everybody is going to like different types of foods," Mark Mehl said.
Matthew Mehl said the business does its own version of the "Pepsi challenge," meaning it doesn't sell or serve a new recipe or product until samplers prefer it to a gluten-containing version.
One of the side goals of Mehl's recent move to a larger store is to use the site as a test kitchen, he said, and Mehl's could someday train people to use its flours and recipes to open their own gluten-free bakeries and cafes.
"We give the products to all of the people in all these different cities and states that want this quality of gluten-free, and yet we give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to make a really good living doing it," he said. "It's a win-win for everybody."
What: Mehl's Gluten-Free Bakery and Grace 1972
Where: 1404 33rd St. S., Fargo
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Phone: (701) 205-4174