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February 20, 2006

Gluten-free store in Roch. profiled

We have an interesting profile by Jeff Hansel on a gluten-free grocery store in Rochester in today's paper.

I wrote about this family way back in March 0f 2004 (pre-blog). Here's some of what I wrote followed by some of Jeff H.'s story:

FREE FOOD: Jane and Mike Mueller opened a specialty food store -The Gluten-Free Cupboard -on Feb. 14 at 1833 Third Ave. S.E. in Rochester because they couldn't find things their family could eat locally.

The Muellers, along with their son, have celiac disease, which means they can't eat gluten. That means no wheat, oats, rye, barley or malt.

Their 675-square-foot store stocks gluten-free breads, cookies, cakes, cereals, pancakes, vitamins, sauces and frozen items.

Here's what Jeff Hansel wrote:

They knew what it was like to go to the grocery store, search the aisles and find little that met their needs.

They understood what other families went through at football games, restaurants and picnics where they couldn't eat the food.

So two years ago this week, the Mueller family of Rochester decided to do something to help others in similar situations. In a labor of love, Jane and Mike Mueller mortgaged their house and used the money to open a store to serve people with celiac disease and other illnesses that prevent consumption of foods containing wheat, rye, barley and anything else that has gluten in it.

"We're hoping that someday we can get out of debt," Mike Mueller said, co-owner of the Gluten-Free Cupboard.

One of their three children, Christopher, a Century High School senior, carries a tattered government card in his wallet that allows him to take his own food into a football stadium or other public venue because he, like his mother, has celiac disease. His father must also avoid gluten.

Jane Mueller said newly diagnosed patients often stop at the store on their way home from Mayo Clinic.

The store offers more than 600 items, including gluten-free waffle mix, muffin mix, soup, breaded chicken nuggets, cookies, noodles, flour and pizza crusts. Soup flavors include varieties such as creamy butternut squash and roasted red pepper with tomato.

Things have improved in the 11 years since Jane Mueller was diagnosed. These days, many area restaurants and businesses have gluten-free menus or products. Some gluten-free foods are also available at regular grocery stores. Hy-Vee, for example, has a gluten-free product list. Christopher is pleased that Valentino's Pizza now gets gluten-free crusts from the cupboard.

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