Local business serves customers with gluten free foods

Meredith Wathne, MSUM integrated advertising and public relations, and multimedia journalism

Just Grains is the first gluten-free bakery in Fargo-Moorhead. It opened Sept. 14. Just Grains managers say business is better than they envisioned. The bakery is at 23 Fourth St. S., directly east of the Main Avenue bridge on the Red River.

Just Grains opened their doors for business the second weekend in September.

Why go gluten free?

More than two million people in the United States are labeled celiac, gluten intolerant, and are forced to take alternative dietary actions. Those who are celiac try to avoid the protein component at all costs or they suffer the consequences. The typical side effects of celiac disease, according to mayoclinic.com are:

In children:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Abdominal and bloating pain

Adults can experience the same symptoms as children, as well as:

  • Unexplained pain
  • Anemia
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Canker sores
  • Rash
  • Migraines
  • Numbness in hands or feet

Just Grains recognized the demand for products that carter to the celiac demographic and opened up shop on Main Street in Moorhead. Jesse Kennedy partnered with Matt Mehl in the process, and is the owner of the business. Mehl owns Mehl’s Flour Company and provides the bread and mixes sold at Just Grains.

Mehl’s Flour Company supplies all of the mixes and baked goods at the store.

“Jesse Kennedy and I came up with a game plan to open a retail outlet because we knew there was a really high demand for quality gluten free products,” Mehl said. “Mehl’s Flour Company had those products and Jesse has a knack at retailing.”

Quality products a key component

Mehl’s Flour Company was trademarked in March and was previously known as Simply Savory. While known as Simply Savory, the company started to craft the gluten free recipes, baked goods and pre-made meals. However, Mehl wanted to focus on producing the best gluten free bread and bread mixes, so they stopped producing pre-made dinners.

Patrons Tara Andresen and Megan Fritz, both of Moorhead, browse through the various bread mixes sold at Just Grains.

“We kind of just streamlined to a single focus so we can make sure we are high quality and top end and have more product control,” he said.

Just Grains offers gluten-free mixes and pre-made baked goods as well as pizza crust.

Besides bread, backed goods like cake, muffins and cookies are sold at Just Grains.

The gluten-free diet

People with celiac disease follow a specific diet or they can become very sick. Others choose the diet to be healthy and feel better. Some foods are naturally gluten free and are the healthiest option. Other foods are labeled gluten free or are made with corn, rice, soy or various other grains. There are several foods that should be avoided unless made with substitute ingredients.

Allowed foods:

  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Natural nuts
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meat, fish and poultry
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Most dairy products

Always Avoid:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale (Cross between wheat and rye)
  • Wheat

A personal connection

Mehl has a personal connection with the gluten free products and lifestyle, as he and almost all of his family members are celiac.

“My three brothers, sister, mom and myself are all celiac and my daughter is gluten intolerant,” he said.

He and two of his brothers operate Mehl’s Flour Company and aim to provide quality gluten-free products that the whole family can enjoy.

Quality products means high demand

The breads and mixes are the cornerstone of Just Grains, but there are several pre-made treats offered in the display case. Homemade cream puffs, chocolate cake and cookies are made daily at Mehl’s and seem to be the most popular, Tyler Wendt, the Chief Operations Officer at Just Grains, said. Three or four deliveries are made a day to keep up with customer demand.

Bread samples are offered to customers daily.

In the few short weeks since Just Grains opened, business has far exceeded all expectations.

“We under estimated what we were going to do by three or four times,” Wendt said. “We have been very busy and people are very, very happy. They come in crying and hugging.”

In addition to the gluten-free baked goods, Just Grains will soon offer gluten-free pasta. One of the top gluten-free pasta brands in Italy, Le Veneziane, will soon make its way to the Just Grains Shelves offering penne, linguine, spaghetti and other types of noodles.

Julie Possehl of Mooread and Lorna Bohjanen of Grandin, ND, sit and enjoy the casual environment offered at Just Grains.

A welcoming environment

In the front corner of Just Grains, a cozy seating area with couches draws in customers looking to enjoy a cookie and a cup of coffee. Situated in front of large windows overlooking Main Avenue and Fourth Street, it’s a popular attribute to the establishment. Customers can also pick up a bag of hand-roasted Alakef coffee, made by a company out of Duluth, Minn.

Alakef coffee, a company out of Duluth, Minn., is also sold at just grains.

Products exceed FDA regulations

Mehl prides himself on the quality of products his company offers. According to the Food and Drug Administration, in order for a product to be considered gluten free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. The goods sold at Just Grains contain only 10ppm gluten, which means it’s a top-notch product.

Whether you are gluten intolerant, want to live a healthier lifestyle or are just curious to try it for the first time, Just Grains has the solution for you.

Just Grains is just getting started, but business has already exceeded expectations and looks to continue.

Edited by Tim Bullock, MSUM multimedia journalism major