Disclosures here first: Kimberly Brackett-Jones is a neighbor. I'd known her as a busy mom of two boys, a lawyer and the keeper of the inflatable polar bear that delights my younger daughter every December.
But one day, at the school bus stop last year, she arrived dressed in an apron. And that's when we learned about her new venture: Launching Five Points Baking Co., which features gluten-free cheese straws.
Brackett-Jones opened Five Points Baking Co. last October, selling her first batches at the annual Junior League of Raleigh's A Shopping Spree. Since then, business has taken off. Her cheese straws are found at local stores such as NOFO and For Your Convenience, along with the Whole Foods in Raleigh, Durham and Cary and A Southern Season's locations in Chapel Hill and (most recently) Charleston, S.C.
Originally, the little crackers were just intended for her husband. A Type 1 Diabetic with Celiac disease, he can't eat any gluten and must watch the amount of carbohydrates in his food. Many gluten-free options are made with rice or potato flour, which come along with high carbohydrates, kicking his blood sugar levels up. Gluten-free cheese straws a hit for this Raleigh business
Brackett-Jones was on the hunt for a snack that would satisfy his cravings for a salty treat. So, in spring 2012, she began testing out different recipes for cheese straws, a favorite snack that he hadn't had in years.
She landed on a winner when she made a batch with almond flour, a low carb and gluten-free option that comes with the bonus of added protein. But not only did the cheese straws meet her husband's requirements, they also really taste good.
"So much of what is out there is a poor substitute of what it is," she said of other gluten-free foods. "These actually taste good."
In fact, she tells me, more than half of her business comes from people who aren't on a gluten-free diet and just enjoy her product.
The past year has been a busy one for the Raleigh mom, who has shaved her hours at her law firm, but still serves some of her existing clients. She's learned lessons in product packaging, marketing and more. She's currently working with food chemists at N.C. A&T State University to figure out how to extend the product's shelf life without adding any artificial ingredients. The product is all natural.
And she recently rented a Raleigh kitchen which she can devote exclusively to gluten-free baking. She had been traveling to Durham to bake at The Cookery, a culinary incubator.
The business also has had an added benefit for her own family. The job allows more flexibility so she can be there for her boys when they need her.
"It's my time. It's my responsibility," she tells me. "I can walk away from this, get them from school and be there for them."
Brackett-Jones has plans for the future. She hopes to add more flavors, including sweet, seasonal varieties, to her offerings. And she'd love to eventually hire somebody to help her. Right now, she does everything - baking, marketing and more.
And, from time to time, she packs up any overcooked batches for her husband.
"He actually gets mad and says 'why don't we get any of these?'" she said with a laugh. "Every now and then, he scores a bag."
Five Points Baking Co. offers 3.5 ounce and 6 ounce boxes of cheese straws. You also can buy a baking mix so you can make the cheese straws at home.
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