Feature Vendor Interview – The Maple Tree

Feature vendor of the week: The Maple Tree
At last week’s market we caught up with Vanessa Darling from The Maple Tree.

What do you sell?
We sell gluten free and mostly vegan treats, bread and baked goods.

How did you start your business?
It was out of need. I am gluten sensitive so I was starting to experiment at home with a lot of recipes. I stumbled across recipes that were working and people were liking my stuff so it started as a hobby. Originally I was called Darling Sweets for my business. I went to a few markets, it was going well. My husband said, “Why don’t we give it a go and try to open up a place? It seems like Red Deer really needs a gluten free bakery”.

We are excited to be opening up a storefront in August! It’s in the old Cone Castle ice cream shop near Bower Ponds.

What is a “must try” or “must know”?
Oh boy, our slogan is “healthy, gluten free and allergy friendly” so as much as we have sweet treats and baked goods we are supposed to be somewhat healthy for you.

I would say cinnamon buns are a “must try” as well as the chocolate peanut butter bar.

What makes you awesome? Why should people choose The Maple Tree?
I cater to various gluten free, allergies, or specific diets such as people who are paleo or vegan, I have stuff for everyone. I have stuff with no eggs, no dairy, no nuts and everything is gluten free.

I am energetic and excited about our new venture. We really want to have our name out there in Red Deer. We want to have people come in and enjoy our stuff when we open. I want them to feel comfortable coming into our place and sitting down and enjoying everything!

You mentioned Paleo is something you cater to, what is Paleo?
From my understanding it’s kind of the caveman diet. So they eat primarily meat, vegetables and berries. They do not eat any grains. I think there are various levels of it so sometimes minimal dairy as well just depending. I have a few recipes and I’m willing to try more. Some people have approached me about it. Some people have asked for no sugar, no coconut or various other things. If people have requests and would like to order that from me I can definitely accommodate for that.

What is your favorite thing that you sell?
I love making the bread. Baking bread is almost therapeutic. It smells so good when it’s rising and in the oven. It’s kind of fun to see how each loaf is so different when it comes out of the oven each is a little different than the others and you can do so much with it. You can do things like cinnamon raisin, or throw in some Italian herbs and garlic. I really want to try something my sister made, she is celiac as well, and she uses cranberries with orange peel. There is a lot that you can do with the bread so that is the one thing that I enjoy the most.

What do people need to be educated about when it comes to gluten free baking?
There are so many different levels of gluten intolerances and reasons why people go gluten free. The number 1 reason is celiac or undiagnosed gluten sensitivities. Some people have a wheat allergy. Some people just feel better being off of gluten. You can eat gluten free and still feel awful or you can eat gluten free and start to feel better. A lot of the gluten free stuff that is out there is just as processed and just as bad as eating what you would eat normally as far as white starches. It’s not good for you, gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Our spin on things is as much as we are gluten free we also want to try and bring something to you that is tasty and healthy as well as gluten free.

While we were doing our interview a return customer stopped by. I asked her; “What is your favorite thing that you buy here?”
“I really like the cookies in a jar and also the granola they are my favorites. If I had to pick it would be the granola!"

Does anyone else sell your products?
No, not as of yet but we do hope to be a supplier to a lot of restaurants and cafés in Red Deer. We want to provide them with a gluten free option on their menu. That is one of our big goals with opening our bakery in town here. Not only do we want to have a space where people can come in and have a light lunch or pick up a loaf of bread we also want to cater to local restaurants and cafes.

Do you attend a lot of markets?
We are actually just signed up for this one as of now. When we open up our commercial kitchen we want to start selling at the Saturday public market.

Do you like being Downtown? 
I do actually! It’s nice and quiet. I like that the streets are closed off so that people can wander and feel safe and comfortable. It would be nice to see a lot more vendors because it is such a great place to sell and to build a community.

What is your favorite thing about being Downtown or about this market?
People are friendly! I guess I like the perks of being able to go buy from all of the other vendors. I don’t get out that much being a stay at home mom so it’s nice being able to just run over to another vendor. I love Klein Farm and I love the fresh produce from the Innisfail Growers so that is a bonus for me.

Do you have a favorite business on this street of favorite other vendor?
Yeah, Klein Farm definitely! Not only are they nice people but they have awesome products. I have been buying from them for the past 3 years. I was so excited to see that they are here and get to buy from them. The sausages are amazing, really good. 
I haven’t really had a chance to try any of the businesses on the street simply because I often cannot leave the booth and don’t get out must.

This is your first year here. How did you first hear about the ATB Downtown Market?
I actually knew about it from visiting as a client wanting to come Downtown and see what it was all about. When we started this business in knew it was still up and running so I looked for an application online, talked to the market manager Tyler and submitted my application. It was just from me knowing it was here.

What advice would you give to people just starting out?
Follow your dreams. If you have a dream of staring something, go for it. Give it a try and start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by signing up for too many markets because it is a lot of work. It’s a good way to get a feel for whether people are interested in your product or not. Definitely go for it if you have a passion but start small.

How do you define success?
Oh boy, these are hard questions! My mom says it’s by satisfying people’s needs. I’d say, yes satisfying people’s needs but I think it would be also happiness. If something like this is giving you happiness, you are doing well and you realize that you are making a difference for other people. That is one big thing for me, making a difference for other people.

I had a client who came to me and she had a 4 year old daughter who is celiac, dairy free and egg free. She came to my table and she said to her daughter, “You can pick anything out at this table, anything, go for it.” The little girls eyes just opened up so big, she couldn’t believe it. She saw the cinnamon buns and said, “Mom, I want the cinnamon buns!” Her mom said, “You bet!” That to me was so heartwarming. That is success. If I can make a difference for other people and know that they are loving my stuff and feel good when they eat it that is success, that and happiness. If you are happy with what you are doing and able to make a difference in other people’s lives all while satisfying other people’s needs I guess that is success.

Anything you want to add?
Come down to the market and say “Hi!” Try out some of my stuff! We have lots of samples and it’s a great place to come visit other vendors too!

Be sure to stop by The Maple Tree at this week’s ATB Downtown Market.
Find them online: https://www.facebook.com/themapletreeglutenfree?fref=ts

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