Grandmothers are special. To a child, their grandmother is the largest source of wisdom next to the Bible. Grandchildren will also tell you that Grandma is the best cook in the family and she will move heaven and earth to make sure her grandchildren have something special to eat.
Paula Dempsey is the above-described grandmother. When three generations of her family, including her grandchildren, were diagnosed with severe food allergies and gluten intolerance, she said she had to do something. That something turned into Dempsey Bakery, a dedicated gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free bakery located in the shadow of the state capitol building in Little Rock, AR offering a wide variety of breads, cakes, cookies, pizza, and pre-packaged meals and mixes. Dempsey Bakery also serves lunch!
Dempsey said she couldn't imagine her grandchildren not having special treats or pretty birthday cakes, so she put her heart and soul into starting a bakery that caters to not only her grandchildren, but all children who have food allergies.
"Nothing makes me happier than to see kids happy," Dempsey said. "My goal in life is to make good gluten-free food available to restaurants and hospitals so it is available to anyone who has to eat gluten free. But it has to taste good."
Her current customers think she's on the right track with great tasting food.
"I like everything here," said Terri, a regular customer with gluten intolerance who drives from Benton, AR to enjoy lunch and stock up on bread and dessert. "Her food is amazing, especially the bread, pizza, Dempsey Club and the cheesecake. I get the cheesecake almost every time. All of it is incredible."
Terri isn't the only one who loves it. Dempsey Bakery was voted runner up for the best bakery in Little Rock and sixth place for best bakeries in the state--and that's competing with all bakeries--not gluten free ones. She is the only dedicated gluten-free bakery in Arkansas.
While her target market is anyone with food allergies, Dempsey said nearly half of her lunch crowd is not gluten free.
"My regulars just love it here," said Dempsey, explaining that her daily customers come from the surrounding downtown area for lunch, but customers travel from around the state and beyond to purchase safe meals, breads and sweet treats. "I've had a customer drive six hours to pick up a birthday cake."
Dempsey always has iced cookies in the display case, along with cupcakes, cheese cake, mini-key lime pie and chocolate lava cake (except they sold out of those while I was touring the kitchen). But that's just the beginning. The assortment of cookies and cakes were impressive. On the counter, there were divine samples of hot milk cake (Dempsey's own recipe), brownies, zucchini bread and more. I may or may not have eaten more than one.
The bakery is 100 percent free of gluten, soy and nuts, but Dempsey said she can also accommodate other dietary restrictions including products that are free from corn, egg, dairy, potato, tapioca, grain, sugar and preservatives upon request.
Dempsey has also encountered many customers who have expressed a need for allergen-free meals for overnight stays in local hospitals. Dempsey now offers pre-packaged, single-serving meals to accommodate this unmet need. Healthcare facilities don't always know how to safely provide meals for patients with food allergies and gluten intolerance, so patients' families often contact her for a solution.
Dempsey Bakery breads and desserts can be found in several metro Little Rock eateries (link here) Also, Dempsey Bakery's Cracker Bread can be found in the local food section of most Memphis-area Kroger stores. If your local Kroger doesn't stock this product, please ask the manager to order it.
Dempsey said she would love get freezer space in grocery stores to make her bread available to those who need it. She has future plans to expand her current location with a larger commercial kitchen to be able to meet this need when she gets the green light from grocery stores.
If you're traveling anywhere near Little Rock, AR, you MUST stop by Dempsey Bakery. Be sure to tell them that the GFree Genius sent you! For more information, visit www.dempseybakery.com.
Photo Credit: Thomas Eldred