What happens when you outgrow a business six weeks into it?
CakeLab, a bakery dedicated to gluten-free products that is run by two of the most enthusiastic siblings you could find, is looking for larger space after less than two months in operation.
The bakery, which started in a tiny, two-room space at 402 E. Fourth St., just off Fourth Avenue, is the brainchild of Daphna Ron, who has been decorating cakes for 15 years. She said that years of working in standard, wheat-laden bakeries impacted her health through celiac disease. After getting sick, she worried she would have to give up what she loved. CakeLab was her solution.
Ron, who has training in both sculpture and cake decorating, said her sculpture skills give her the ability to fashion cakes in just about any shape a customer could want. Cake decorating "is just as artistic as other (forms of art), and I also get to make people happy," Ron says.
She's made seven-tiered wedding cakes laced with ribbons and bows, a cake shaped like a brain, and frosted caricatures of real people.
She emphasizes that being gluten-free doesn't mean your pastry options are limited. "You have the expectation that you have to settle (for less) when you eat gluten-free," Ron says. But having something beautiful "is not out of reach."
At first, Ron wondered if she really needed a storefront. Then her brother Eyal took a break from his classes at the University of Wisconsin to help open the shop. He liked the product and decided to move to Tucson to help his sister with her venture.
Eyal Ron, who often baked for other people, says he could follow a recipe and adjust it to suit his tastes, but admits that baking commercially is a different experience. "Being consistent is much harder than making something taste good," he says.
With Eyal on board, CakeLab expanded its offerings with cupcakes, breads, muffins, cookies, pies and cheesecakes. The Rons attended the Gluten Free Awareness Expo in Tucson last month and obtained special orders for parties and gatherings.
The two enjoy working together. "I make (the products) look amazing," Daphna says. "Eyal makes them taste amazing."
Working at CakeLab has helped Eyal appreciate gluten-free products. He also realized the importance of maintaining the integrity of a contaminant-free environment for health reasons. If he brings home pizza containing glutens, he has to eat it outside.
Although they expect to have a standardized menu someday, the Rons are letting public interest guide what comes out of the oven for now. In addition to gluten-free products, they also offer dairy-free breads, vegan cupcakes and nut-free goodies.
The Rons had planned to expand CakeLab in a year or two, but demand has already caught up with them. They had 27 special orders for Thanksgiving, and will soon sell their offerings at the Food Conspiracy Co-Op.
To meet the demand, CakeLab is looking for a larger space. Daphna hopes to offer in-store dining, with an expanded menu that includes crepes and soups. She hopes to stay in the downtown or Fourth Avenue area.
Daphna and Eyal are incredibly welcoming people, and going to the original CakeLab was like visiting a friend's house. You can keep up with plans for the expanded CakeLab at facebook.com/Cakelabtucson.