For Yih Chuang, a simple trip to the bakery is usually anything but.
His 6-year-old son Jaden Chuang has a long list of food allergies: wheat, nuts, soy, corn and eggs, to name a few.
For years, the Bellevue resident has been on the lookout for shops on the Eastside that carry sweet treats and other foods Jaden can eat, but hasn’t had much luck. So he was more than a little grateful when he heard Flying Apron, a gluten-free, vegan and organic bakery, had opened a location in Redmond.
“This is the only place we found where (Jaden) may eat,” he said.
Chuang first discovered Flying Apron when he found the bakery’s gluten-free and vegan recipe book at Costco. Upon further reading, he learned the bakery was located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood and began visiting it with Jaden.
But crossing State Route 520 is a long drive to make for just a few cookies and muffins.
This was exactly what Flying Apron owners Erik Chelstad, Ethan Hernandez (left) and Jeff Silva (not pictured) thought when they were considering opening a second location.
Chelstad said many of their customers in Fremont, like Chuang, are from the Eastside. Additionally, a number of Eastside grocery stores such as Whole Foods in Redmond sell Flying Apron baked goods, so the three men knew there was a local market for their products.
“We knew over here, there were people who cared about this type of thing,” Chelstad said about their specialty foods.
Another reason they chose Redmond specifically because they all had worked in town at one point and really liked the old-town feel of the community.
“It’s a friendly place,” Chelstad said. “It’s a good demographic. A lot of people live and work in Redmond.”
He, Hernandez and Silva — who have worked together in the tech industry — have owned Flying Apron since January 2010. The bakery had one previous owner but had moved to various Seattle locations before settling in Fremont about three and half years ago.
When they bought the business, many Flying Apron customers were worried the new owners would change things, but Chelstad, Hernandez and Silva have done their best to be transparent in their business. They informed the local community that they would not be changing things and have remained open about what types of ingredients they use. They also do their best to work with local producers when purchasing ingredients.
“That’s one of the things that excited us (about Flying Apron),” Chelstad said. “The local aspect.”
Neither he nor Hernandez had previous experience in the baked goods industry, but Silva used to own a bakery with his wife. Hernandez said one of the reasons they went into business together was because they wanted to simplify things.
“We had this notion of getting into something smaller, something we could control,” he said.
They specifically chose Flying Apron because they liked that it was a sustainable business — not just in its products but in its practices as well.
Hernandez and Silva also have a little more personal stake in the bakery as Hernandez’s daughter has issues with gluten and Silva has Crohn’s disease, which affects his digestive system.
Flying Apron uses a lot of alternatives to replace traditional ingredients such as bean or rice flour instead of wheat flour, maple syrup instead of sugar and flaxseed instead of eggs. The bakery also offers a number of savory dishes such as salads and brown rice pastas. Ingredients are listed next to each product so the customer — whether they’re concerned for health reasons, ethical reasons or just curious — knows exactly what they’re getting.
While the words gluten-free and vegan don’t always get mouths to water, Hernandez backs all of their products.
“There isn’t anything here I wouldn’t be happy to suggest,” he said.
Flying Apron also has a 100 percent refund, no questions asked, policy. If a customer is unhappy with their product, they can just bring it back.
In addition to the health benefits, Flying Apron products have an added benefit.
“Cookies make people happy…and so do cupcakes,” Hernadez said.
And sometimes, that happiness makes all the difference.
Chuang said while it is great that Jaden can eat the food at Flying Apron, it is even better that there is at least one place where his son won’t feel singled out for his allergies.
“I think it’s important to Jaden not just because he can have a variety, but (that) he can eat something at the store,” Chuang said.