Gluten-Free Bakery Hit by Flood Turns to Crowdfunding

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WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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Manhattan, MT—Gluten-Free Prairie Bakery, co-owned by husband and wife Rick and Deb Wheaton and their son Jeremy, were in preparation to open their new healthy, gluten-free bakery in March. Two weeks before opening day, the store was flooded with the basement entirely under water, damaging the floors and the equipment stored in it.

Just 10 months earlier, the family purchased a 100-year-old building on Main Street in the little town of Manhattan, MT. For nearly a year, the Wheatons worked to renovate and update the old building and bought products and commercial equipment to fill it with. The family grows its gluten-free oats in its own gluten-free field in South West Montana, harvests them on dedicated gluten-free equipment, and processes them in a certified gluten-free facility. The firm had already marketing gluten-free granola, cookies and other products, and wanted to expand with its new bakery and storefront.

On March 7, the entire new facility was flooded from the previous night, with most of the newly delivered equipment destroyed. “It was like seeping in, and all of a sudden, it was like a waterfall in our brand new bakery. We just had a $30,000 piece of equipment delivered today,” said D. Wheaton on NBC Montana. The main problem they face not only involves the equipment, but the fact they had no proper flood insurance because it was not yet open. While FEMA assisted neighboring towns, Gluten-Free Prairie Bakery’s area was not zoned for help.

Based on the damage, cost of repairs and restoration for the bakery is about $45,000– $50,000 to pay for repairing the floors, equipment, re-wiring the basement and main floor, shipping materials and packaging materials. Not wanting to lose their business, the family created a campaign on GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com/7iawks), a crowd-funding platform for raising money. So far, the site has 75 donations from people, raising $5,055 in two months, which was used to replace the bakery floors and install new equipment. Donations ranged from $5 to $500. 

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2014, online 5/30/14