Most days, Melinda Harrower begins baking at Melinda’s Gluten Free Bakery at 4 a.m.
She’s gotten used to the schedule, and has grown to like it. She returns home for the day around the time her teenage kids get back from school. “I might need a nap, but I’m good to go,” she says. Harrower, who has celiac disease, has seen a range of gluten sensitivities over the years—stretching from the rare and extreme cases of people who get anaphylaxis when there’s flour in the air to others who simply feel bloated after eating too much bread.
She wants even the most sensitive customers to be safe in her 41st Avenue shop. I talked to Harrower at her bakery, which is around the corner from the Capitola branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles, as jazz music played quietly in the background.
I see ‘GF’ a lot as an abbreviation for ‘gluten-free.’ Do you remember, like, 15 years ago, when ‘GF’ was an abbreviation for ‘girlfriend?’
MELINDA HARROWER: [Laughs] When I first started my website, I got the weirdest people knocking on my door, messaging me. I was like, “No, no, no! I’m not trying to be your girlfriend.” It was so uncomfortable. No, Melinda’s not your girlfriend. Melinda’s is gluten-free.
Do people ever come in here after waiting in line at the nearby DMV for six hours, and how famished do they look when they arrive?
I had to sit in the line once, and I had my staff bring doughnuts over. We get a lot of people who just got their license. It’s really cute. But yeah, they’re pretty famished. And angry! So we try to make their life a little easier.
‘Croissant’ is one of those words that, whenever I say it, I either feel like a simple-minded American or a worldly snob. How do you say it?
“Craw-saunt.” I say it like an American. It’s funny because we use Amazon Alexa as our timer, and she says “crwuh-sahn.” We started calling them “crescent rolls” just to get her to stop saying “crwuh-sahn.” It’s funny, we actually got a negative Yelp review, because we kept “yelling at this poor girl in the back—‘Alexa, stop!’” [Music stops playing suddenly during our interview.] Oh, she heard me. Oopsies …