Photos by Dion Ogust
Next time you’re strolling down Main Street in New Paltz, climb the pink stairway to the little shop at number 56 called the Sweet Bunny for something…well, sweet. Choose a cupcake labeled “coconut haystack truffle” or another one promising “sea salt caramel mocha,” all piled up in variegated layers. A freezer case holds a dozen flavors of gelato, and candy lines the shelved walls.
The proprietress, Mia Hindrell, moved her candy and ice cream shop to this location from North Front Street and altered her offerings to better to meet the needs of the community. She switched from serving ice cream to locally sourced gelato. And she added baked goods to the menu: muffins, cookies, cupcakes and now crêpes, both savory and sweet. “The whole facility is gluten-free, says Hindrell. “There is no gluten here.” “Not in the entire building?” I ask. “Nowhere. Well, maybe upstairs. I don’t know what they’re doing in the apartment.”
Having been diagnosed with celiac disease around the same time that she moved her shop, Hindrell realized that she’d need to remove all products containing gluten from her workspace.
In changing her own diet, Hindrell discovered that a gluten allergy often comes with lactose intolerance, so the Sweet Bunny also offers some goods that are strictly vegan. She admits that it’s hard to accommodate all the dietary restrictions that people are now living with: soy, nut, dairy products and so on. She uses Earth Balance and organic eggs and other natural quality ingredients in her recipes. Although all ingredients of every food item in the shop are not listed, the staff is very conscientious about answering customers’ questions and disclosing contents as much as possible.
At the very least, everything is guaranteed to be fresh, delicious and gluten-free. Hindrell says, “We tried a lot of different flour mixes. We now use Pamela’s ready-made flour mix. Nina and Juliet do all the baking. I have to say that they don’t let me touch anything,” she laughs at herself. “They have made our baked goods taste so good. If I buy gluten-free stuff in the City, it’s always got this weird aftertaste. Ours actually taste like real cupcakes.”
A new hire, Nelson, is being trained to make crêpes. “I played with the recipe for three years,” Hindrell says. “They’re super-easy to make at home, but on this commercial griddle, the temperature has to be just right. And then whoever is making the crêpes has to stay on the crêpes. Financially speaking, I had to find the right time when I could hire more people in the store, so that one person could stay on the crêpes.” How does a lemon/Nutella/banana crêpe sound? Or the more traditional cinnamon-and-sugar? On the savory side, customers can grab a spinach-and-cheese or ham-and-cheese crêpe, made to order for a quick bite on the go.
Hailing from Finland 20 years ago, Hindrell brings her European sensibilities to the job and manages it with a casual-but-earnest entrepreneurial flair. She works hard to introduce delicious edibles to the public and to change the association that people might have of the label “GF.” Proving that gluten-free products are not only for people with symptomatic or allergic conditions is easy when the taste and texture are there. She is pleased with the quality and delectability that the staff (including another young woman named Kelly) has achieved. Her only concern is that they will graduate from college and get real jobs somewhere else, or fulfill their current dream to get a food truck and drive away.
“My real job, my official background, is as a physical therapist and trainer; and now I design spa spaces in the City. My staff at the Sweet Bunny is amazing. They make the menus, give me a list of what to order; they clean, they run the place. It’s amazing. No, they cannot get a food truck,” she laughs.
The Sweet Bunny, Wednesday-Friday, 12 noon-6 p.m., Saturday/Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Monday/Tuesday, 56 Main Street, New Paltz; (845) 419-1559, www.facebook.com/sweetbunnycandy.